FOXFIRE VILLAGE – A group of girls at Ledford High School has proven that golf can be a team sport.
Despite not having a player contending for the individual title, the Panthers won their third straight 3-A state championship at Foxfire Resort and Golf Club. They won by 29 shots over Northern Guilford and West Henderson. Ledford shot 498 (250-248) while Northern Guilford and West Henderson both totaled 527.
“It’s special,” coach John Ralls said. “It’s something that you work for and these kids have put a lot of time and effort into it. To be able to accompish it, makes it worthwhile.”
Seniors Meghan Holbrooks and Alexis Kershaw and junior Julia Carroll have been on all three state championship teams. None of them have won an individual state title but their ability to put up consistently good scores has been important in winning team championships.
“Our depth was the key in any of our matches this year,” Ralls said. “They all had a chance to be the medalist each week.”
Holbrooks led the team at the state championship, placing fifth with rounds of 76-82 on the par-71 course. She was nine shots off the pace of Lee County sophomore Siranon Shoomee, medalist with 76-73.
Holbrooks fifth-place effort was the best individual finish by any Ledford player during the three-year reign.
“I can’t put it into words,” said Holbrooks, who will play college golf at Pfeiffer next year. “It’s overwhelming. We worked hard, we worked as a team and we came out and did it when it matters. That’s pretty much been the key to our success.”
Kershaw led the team in scoring at the 3-A Central Regional. At Foxfire, she shot 89-77 as Ledford led by only six shots after the first round over Northern Guilford.
“This is awesome,” she said. “I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, but as a team we finished up good and it’s great to win it again.”
Kershaw, who will play college golf at Catawba next year, lowered her first-round score by 12 shots the second day, which was a key to the victory.
“The first round, I had three bad holes and I couldn’t get it going after that,” she said after a 14th-place finish. “Today, I played a lot better and was more consistent. We would have liked to have more than a six-shot cushion after the first round but we played well enough to finish it today.”
Carroll shot 85-89 (tied for 19th) to complete the team score.
“To do this three times in a row is incredible,” she said. “We played as a team all year. All of our scores have been counting and we were consistent. I had an 89 today which is not great, but it was good enough.”
This was the most convincing win of the three titles. The Panthers won by only four shots in 2011 and by 12 shots last year.
“They are all special,” said Ralls, who has been the coach since Ledford started a girls’ golf program seven years ago.”The first one was nice and kind of unexpected. The second one was a little bit of a grind. You felt like you had to do it again. This one, we just went out and tried to win another one, and that’s what we did. We didn’t have to defend last year. We were just trying to win this year and we were fortunate enough to do it.”
Carroll will return next year along with sophomore Madison Young as the Panthers try to make it four straight. Young was at the state tournament and shot 93-96.
“We need to find another girl,” Carroll said. “Hopefully, someone else will step up their game.”
Ralls said he had two freshmen who played in some matches this year but “they are still a ways away” from where their game needs to be.
“We have Julia and Jordan back and we’ll see what happens,” Ralls said. “Right now, we’re going to celebrate this.”
If it wasn’t for Ledford, Northern Guilford might be celebrating a string of state championships. The Nighthawks played in the final pairing at the state tournament for the fourth straight year. They also finished as runner-up to Ledford in the 3-A Central Regional this year.
“We struggled at the end today but I’m proud of the girls,” Northern Guilford coach Chris Jones said. “Ledford is obviously the best team. We knew coming in they were the team to beat. They have three horses and they are good.”
The Nighthawks were led by Bryce Huntoon who shot 86-87 and placed 18th. Kendall Dobbins posted 85-91 and Alex Berg had 85-93.
Dobbins will return next year along with a fourth player at the state tournament, Madison Cobb (94-101), as the Nighthawks try to finally catch Ledford.