The Eastern Alamance High men’s golf team was crowned Alamance County champions on Wednesday, April 17 at Indian Valley Golf Course in Burlington.
In a hard-fought match, the Eagles defeated Williams – arguably their biggest rival for the NCHSAA 3A state championship – by one stroke. Coming into Wednesday’s match, the Eagles had a 21-shot lead.
EAHS standout Nick Mathews medalled, shooting a 68, two-under-par. Mathews would also go on to win by two strokes, followed by Garrett Clark from Williams.
“Today I had a rough start with my ball striking,” Mathews said. “I don’t think I hit a green until the fifth hole, but I was one under through five. Once I realized I was managing my game really solid through those first five holes, which I’ve really worked on this season, I knew I was in good position. My short game was super solid. After that, I continued plow my way around the course, and I ended up playing pretty well.”
Twelve years ago, a county championship award in Alamance County was established in the name of Steve Walker, founder of one of the most successful parent-child tournaments in the state, located at Shamrock golf course.
“Getting the Steve Walker first place award for the county is a huge honor,” bubbled Mathews. “Last year, I finished second. I was in the final group. I was definitely within reach of getting done and I just didn’t play how I wanted. This year it means a lot. To come out on top throughout the course of an entire season — that’s a pretty big achievement, especially with some of the guys I’m competing against. We’ve got a lot of solid players in this field. It means a ton, and I’m really grateful and really excited to win this year.”
According to Mathews, the Eagles have a good shot at winning the state championship later this spring.
“We’ve got a really solid lineup this year,” explained Mathews. “All of us have been trending in the right direction. We’re going to need to put a solid round together. Each and every one of us is going to have to play well. If we want to play really well at regionals, and then play really well at States, we’re going to need to put some really solid scores together. We understand that, and we’re willing to put in the work.”
Eastern head coach J.T. Kirby wasn’t jumping up and down about the round Wednesday, but he was happy to take a win.
Williams and Western have been fierce competition against each other this spring, as he explains further.
“Today overall, we didn’t shoot one of the better scores at this particular golf course, but the end result, we were able to win,” said Kirby. “We went up against the tough Williams and Western teams, who we’ve had some tough encounters with this year. So I think anytime you come out with a win we’re happy about it, no matter how we do it.”
The Eagles go into Spring Break next week, and have a 20-day break until Regionals, which will be held at Keith Hills Golf Course in Lillington, located in Harnett County near Campbell University. But Coach Kirby looks at this as an advantage. EAHS will travel as a team to a tournament in South Carolina, which will help the group build more experience and camaraderie as they prepare for what they hope will be a state title run in May.
“This weekend we’ve got the majority of our team going down to the Palmetto tournament down in South Carolina,” Kirby said. “It’s going to be a strong field, which I think will prepare us for the coming regional match. Beyond that, we’re going to see Western and Williams again at regionals. Hopefully, we can replicate what we did last year and win that regional tournament to move onto the state tournament.”
“We know what our goal is, so we kind of surpassed our first goals of the year and we’re moving on to our next ones,” Kirby added. “The Palmetto tournament is big for us in terms of giving us an opportunity to play a little bit more. Over spring break, that’s going to give them (the EAHS golfers) three 18-hole rounds. There will be a little pressure playing against good teams. Once we get back from Spring Break, we’re going to try to build, play a couple practice rounds at the course we’re playing for Regionals at Keith Hills. It’s just gonna be a matter of digging in, taking that time as an advantage to get ready.”