By BOB SUTTON
Even coming off a bad back, Daniel Brantley carried the load.
The Asheboro senior not only recovered from an April ailment, but he put the hurt on Foxfire Golf and Country Club with two consistent rounds in the 3-A state golf tournament, winning the individual title at 2-under-par 142.
“I knew if I shot at least a few under, I would have a chance,” Brantley said.
Still, it took quite a bit for Brantley to overcome a strained muscle that limited him for a month prior to the high school postseason. In a four-week period, he played just one 9-hole match. His first 18-hole round back in action came in the regionals.
But Brantley said he wasn’t about to miss an opportunity in his final season before going to play college golf for Charlotte. He signed with the 49ers in the fall.
He said he could cope with slight discomfort.
“I kind of played through the pain,” he said. “It was more of a worry that I could be hurt for several months. But I wasn’t going to hurt it by not being smart.”
Brantley called it a first-time injury, so he had some apprehension about how to deal with it. He saw a doctor, and treated the ailment with rest, ice and exercises.
While he struggled with the putter at times during the state tournament’s first round, there were few other signs of rust.
“Everything else was there,” he said. “Hit the ball well; chipped well; played smart.”
He shot even-par 72 on the first day to sit in third place, then posted a 70 in the final round. That was good enough for a two-stroke win over Will Long of team champion Gastonia Forestview and Brandon Katsoudas of Marvin Ridge.
If anything, the driver had given Brantley trouble this spring. Those concerns were eased in the first round of the states with strong tee balls throughout the day.
The second round started miserably as Brantley bogeyed the first two holes.
“He really battled back,” Asheboro coach Graham Helsabeck said. “He really had to have it mentally to battle back.”
A four-hole stretch with three birdies (Nos. 8, 10, 11) wiped away some of the tension.
His first birdie of the round came on the par-4 eighth hole — a dogleg left layout — without the benefit of a putt. He left his approach shot 5 feet off the green, but made up for that by chipping in from about 25 feet from the hole.
Birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 gave him the cushion that eventually clinched the championship. Brantley said he hit only two substandard shots on the back nine.
Brantley was in his third state tournament, but he had barely cracked the top 10 in 2010 for his best previous appearance.
He became Asheboro’s first state champion since Dustin Bray won in 3-A in 1999 and 2000.
Brantley didn’t plan much of a celebration.
“Probably practice some more,” he said.
Meanwhile, Long was awarded the runner-up position when he won a playoff with Katsoudas, who was a first-round co-leader.
Gastonia Forestview, with a score of 593, won the team championship by five shots over Marvin Ridge. Charlotte Catholic was third at 608, while defending champion Burlington Williams was fourth at 615 and Rockingham County, which like Burlington Williams is a Mid-State 3-A Conference member, was fifth at 627.
Asheboro ended up sixth at 629, with Alex Pugh tying for 17th with 154 (81-73).
Gastonia Forestview moved up from a third-place finish in 2011.
The Burlington Williams team was paced by William Register’s 148 (74-74) tying for eighth place, Luke Haithcock’s 149 (77-72) in 11th place and Jacob Haithcock’s 154 (80-74) tying for 17th.
Coach Tommy Cole said his team’s depth wasn’t solid enough and that put pressure on certain golfers.
Rockingham County had solid showings from Caleb Keck in 12th with 150 (73-77) and Jesse Wall tied for 14th with 153 (75-78).
Eastern Guilford’s Tristan Lough, competing as his school’s lone entrant, shot 159 (81-78) to tie for 33rd.