We’ve all endured sacrifices in 2020 surrounding COVID-19. It was hard not to feel selfish when bemoaning what could have been.
And while those of us at Triad Golf Today and Triangle Golf Today are beyond thankful the sport of golf was able to blossom in the state of North Carolina during the pandemic, there are stories I truly missed this year.
I am not alone. I can’t help but think of all the high school golfers whose seasons were washed away. I began the year featuring Blake Brantley of Winston-Salem Reynolds and his future college trek to Yale. Brantley and his mom couldn’t hide their excitement and pride during the interview at Forsyth Country Club, and with good reason.
At that time back in early April, COVID-19 was changing our lives daily, and there was still hope among the Brantley crew that Blake would be able to compete in the upcoming state 4-A championship and head north to play golf in the Ivy League this fall.
Neither occurred, and Brantley, and hundreds of teenagers just like him from Murphy to Manteo, were left with a void that was difficult to fill. Having won a state baseball championship in 1978 I can speak from experience, and just how much that piece of sports history helped shape me as not only an athlete but a person.
That sense of accomplishment can’t be matched, and for those prep stars who missed out having medals placed over their heads and those teams were unable to raise that state title trophy, I feel so very sad for all of you. I also feel bad for many of your parents, who along with you have sacrificed greatly in order for you to succeed. Trust me, you have no bigger fans than your parents. You’ll understand when you have kids someday.
And while I’ve interviewed hundreds of elite professional athletes and coaches over my nearly four decades in journalism — from Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods to Dean Smith to Bobby Bowden — my favorite events to cover are the NCHSAA state golf championships in Pinehurst.
Who doesn’t like going to Pinehurst? But it’s not necessarily the area that piques my interest each spring and fall. For me, it’s the height of sports purity, the emotional battles of athletic skill and mental challenges that prep golfers embrace as they try to go low.
Most don’t succeed at a very high level, some shooting in the mid 80s to high 90s, but that’s not really the point, is it? It’s about competing, getting the best out of your game as puberty gives way to pars, as team camaraderie forges forever friendships.
Yes, these 2020 memories are gone. But none of us should be defined by a single year in time. Teenagers are the sponges of lessons learned, so absorbing one positive piece out of all the rubble is this: Every time you place that tee in the ground, sink that 10-foot birdie putt or spend time on the links with your parents or friends, cherish the moment, cherish the opportunity, and cherish the game that will live on in all of our lives.
On to 2021!