Westchester Country Day didn’t like finishing second last year. It was determined to not let it happen again in 2013.
The Wildcats, who won consecutive state titles in 2010 and 2011, shot 308-299 – 607 to capture the North Carolina independent 2-A state championship by eight shots over second-place St. David’s of Raleigh at Talamore Golf Resort.
“It feels really good – a lot better than the runner-up last year,” sophomore Thomas Walsh said with a broad smile. “We didn’t want that second place again because that was awful last year. So, we worked hard, and we played our best 18 holes of the year.”
Westchester’s 299 second-round total was the best of the tournament and its best-ever in state tournament play. After building a six-shot lead in the first round, it remained focused on playing well in the final round and not allowing a second-place finish to even enter the picture.
“It was huge,” coach Adam Schwartz said of last year’s finish as motivation. “It really stunk, being runner-up. They didn’t want to go to dinner or anything afterward. It hurt them, so they really worked hard. And I think they really bought into the team golf attitude.”
Walsh and freshman Hardin Councill, who shot 70 in the first round to tie for the overnight lead, tied for second individually. Walsh fired 72-71 while Councill carded 70-73. They ended two shots behind Gastonia Day junior Archer Price, who posted 70-71.
Russell Marion, a sophomore, tied for ninth with a 79-72 and joined Walsh and Councill in the top 10. But it was Jake Weiland, an eighth-grader, who provided perhaps the most pivotal play for the Wildcats during the tournament, shooting 87-83.
All season, Westchester searched for that key fourth score for its team total. Losing several seasoned players from last year, it worked throughout the year to develop the younger players. At the state tournament, Weiland performed well, posting counting scores both days.
“I think everyone knows their roles,” Schwartz said. “Thomas and Hardin know they have to play really well. Russell knew he was capable, because he’s competed with those guys and beat them in three or four individual matches.
“Those guys knew they had to give us a good score and then get one score out of the other three. Jake Weiland was just huge. For an eighth-grader to shoot 87 and 83 is awesome. We’re just going to try to keep working and getting better against tough competition.”
While they had a sense from the outset they might have a chance this year, the Wildcats faced their biggest challenge following a 10th-place finish among 11 teams at the N.C. High School Invitational at Treyburn Country Club in late April.
It was a humbling experience, but it showed them exactly what they should expect at that level and how they should prepare, mainly in how to manage their play and their scores with the team total – and a state championship – in mind.
“We had a meeting and I said: ‘If you can hit the shot 10 out of 10 times, then do it,”’ Walsh said. “You don’t want to be that one shot that costs us the state championship.
“But I said that you don’t want to have one of those. Play it smart – take your par, maybe make birdie and take bogey out of the equation. It’s hard, but we did it – everyone did it. We learned it the hard way in the middle of the season. So, we finally got it.”