By CHRISTIAN WORSTELL
With a 103-stroke blowout victory for The Elon School, the North Carolina Independent School Association’s 1-A state championship was never much in doubt.
The individual title was another story.
Elon teammates Nick Davenport and Dexter Blank finished the 36-hole tournament deadlocked at 158 and squared off in a sudden death playoff at Mid Pines Golf Club on May 14. Davenport, a junior playing on his 17th birthday, defeated Blank, a senior, with a par on the second playoff hole.
“It was very nerve-wracking. But it was fun at the same time because it was someone I knew rather than an opponent,” said Blank, who started the day four shots back of Davenport but closed the gap with a 76.
In addition to being teammates at Elon, Davenport and Blank belong to Alamance Country Club and live within a healthy par-5 of each other. Their friendship was on display on the decisive playoff hole when Davenport was safely on the green in regulation while Blank was faced with a plugged lie in a bunker. Blank smiled across at Davenport and said, “Do me a favor and three-putt that, will ya?”
Dave Blank, Elon’s head coach and Dexter’s father, chose not to watch the playoff, instead staying behind in the scoring area.
“I watched him for two holes (in regulation) and he bogeyed both holes so he told me to go away,” Dave Blank said with a laugh. After winning the team championship a year ago, Blank is now two-for-two as head coach.
“Great players make good coaches,” Blank said. “It’s fun to watch them all. This is a bunch of guys that really play golf. They work at golf and it shows when they come out and compete.”
Elon swept the top four spots with freshman Fletcher Riddle taking third place (82-80) and sophomore George Schmitt (84-82) coming in fourth.
Davenport followed up a first-round 78 with a roller coaster round of 80 on day two. After starting his day on the most difficult hole in the shotgun format and playing the first eight in 5 over, Davenport went birdie-eagle on the 14th and 15th holes to right the ship. But Davenport, who finished 10th in last year’s championship, ran into trouble again with back-to-back triple bogeys on holes one and two before finishing with consecutive birdies.
“I got off to a little bit of a shaky start. I knew that in order to finish in the top three that I had to do something,” Davenport said. “I knew I had to get it back down to at least 80 or 79.”
Both players were faced with some demons in the playoff, which started on the par-4 first hole. Blank made a bogey and a double bogey on the hole during regulation, but in the playoff he hit a wedge to about 15 feet and nearly holed the birdie putt for the win.
The par-3 second hole was where Davenport had just made a triple bogey moments earlier in regulation (he finished his round on the fifth hole). But in the playoff he stuck an 8-iron from 155 yards to 24 feet for an easy par after Blank took three shots to reach the green.
Rounding out the team score for Elon were Bryce Poremba (95-90) and Andrew Bender (94-98). Elon’s two-day total of 674 was well clear of second-place Hickory Christian, who came in at 777.
It was a lot closer last year with Elon emerging with a 10-shot margin.