Cape Fear’s golf team recently wrapped up the United 8 Conference golf championship, but the Colts have a bigger goal in mind.
Since before the 2023 season started, coach Todd Edge said the team’s mission has been to return to the N.C. High School Athletic Association state finals and try to improve on last year’s performance. The team finished tied for third in the 3-A tournament with Western Alamance and was 10 strokes behind second-place finisher and Cumberland County rival Terry Sanford.
Senior Gavin Drose, who is back for a final crack at top honors, led the Colt golfers a year ago and was low for all Cumberland County golfers with a two-day total of 149, five over par on the Pinehurst No. 6 course.
This year, Drose and teammate Nick Perry, who was ninth in the state tournament last year, led Cape Fear to the United 8 crown. They finished 1-2 in the final conference individual race, Drose averaging 72.8 while Perry averaged 73.3.
“With those two coming back and Garrett Hales, who played in the state championship last year, we felt we would be pretty strong,” said Edge, who turned out to be right.
Edge said Drose and Perry are not just weekend high school golfers. They are regulars on the junior tournament circuit and hard workers who are focused on their objectives, whether practicing or playing.
The pair are what Edge refers to as COVID babies, golfers who had their season cut short as freshmen when they played and won one match at Stryker Golf Course before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of all high school sports.
The following year, teams were limited to tri-matches during the regular season and didn’t see the whole conference on the course until the final match. It was winner take all, and Terry Sanford prevailed and qualified for regional competition.
The Colts managed to qualify four individuals.
Edge said the focus for this year’s team was to get better individually and improve on weaknesses.
The Colts regular season is already over, and they’ve got close to two weeks to practice for the 3-A Mideast Regional tournament, which will be held May 8 at Terry Sanford’s home course, Highland Country Club.
The rival Bulldogs wrap up their regular season on May 1 at Chicora Golf Course, but they have a comfortable lead over second-place Harnett Central as they seek to clinch the All American Conference title.
Edge said the Bulldogs are in line to win the state championship this year.
“They are loaded,” he said, noting they return a strong performer in Ethan Paschal and added another standout player in Charlie Horne to a great group of golfers.
“They are the front-runners,” Edge said. “We want to finish in the top three (at the regionals) to make it to the state.”
Edge said his team will get in some practice rounds at Highland before the regional tournament on May 8, as well as some practice time at the Foxfire Red course in Moore County, where this year’s state 3-A championship tournament will be held.
Cape Fear’s Perry feels his game is in as good a spot as it’s ever been.
“I’m averaging the best I have in all three years of high school,” he said. “If I can continue to practice like it’s the real thing, I think that keeps me ready to play.”
Drose feels confident about his iron game but would like to be able to hit more greens.
“We have a good shot at doing well in the regional and possibly winning the state,” he said. “We try to stay locked in and practice every day, do our drills that coach tells us to do.”
Edge said his players are not strangers to Highland, where the regional tournament will be held.
“We’ve played there a couple of times, and we were there when we were in the same conference with Terry Sanford,” he said. “Of course, when you get out there, it’s the course and the elements that day (that determine) how well you play as an individual.”
The guest speaker is Tyler Zeller, former basketball player for the University of North Carolina.
Zeller is a former McDonald’s All-American and a member of the 2009 UNC national championship team.
He played eight seasons in the NBA.
Ticket packages include $40 for an individual ticket or $300 for a table of eight.
A sponsorship package for $500 includes a table of eight, preferred table location and two tickets to a reception with Zeller before the dinner. The sponsor’s name will be listed on tournament shirts and signage.
Earl Vaughan Jr. is on Twitter @EarlVaughanJr.