It was only fitting that the Mount Airy Granite Bears got to come home for the coronation — but they had to earn it.
On a day when virtually every 1A and 2A school in the region was teeing it up at Cross Creek Country Club, the Bears needed every stroke to lock up a hard-fought conference title on Monday afternoon.
Mount Airy captured the victory in the final Northwest 1A Conference meet of the season, and also won the overall league title, based on aggregate strokes of all of the conference meets held this spring. The Bears edged out Bishop McGuinness by just two strokes, 1,269 to 1,271.
Coming into the 2016 season, Bishop McGuinness had been the bully of the league for several years, and had not even lost so much as a conference meet, let alone the league title, in six years before the Bears bested them in the league opener on March 21 in Winston-Salem. The Villains and East Surry have spent the entire season looking up at Mount Airy, with the other three schools well behind.
As it had in the most recent conference meets, Bishop had an excellent day on Monday, tying the Bears for the lowest team score at 316, along with Reagan Erhardt capturing medalist honors with a score of two-over-par 74 (36-38). The only other golfer who broke 40 on both nines was Mount Airy’s Sam Nester, the second medalist with a 75 (39-36). The Villains’ Kevin Sowinski’s 77 stood up for third, while the Bears’ Reagan Fitzgibbons and Nabyant Wagner also broke 80, each shooting 79.
Christopher Dorsett’s 83 was the other score for the Bears that was counted in the team tally. Jared Pendleton shot 89 and Will Zeller 95.
No one was likely aware of it at the time, but Bishop actually held the overall conference lead on the course after nine holes of play. The Villains outshot the Bears 158-162 on the front nine, but Mount Airy had a four-stroke edge on the back nine (154-158) to take the crown. Nester, Fitzgibbons and Dorsett all lowered their scores on the back nine to enable the Bears to tie Bishop in the meet and defeat them in the conference race.
For East Surry, the low scorer for the day was Griffin Hall, with an 84 (41-43). Parker Tilley was a shot behind, with an 85. Will Felts shot 88 and Brock Jessup had an 89 to round out the team score for the Cardinals, who placed third on Monday and in the final league standings. Jason Moore and Dakota Smith also competed for the Cardinals, with scored of 90 and 93, respectively.
Very few golfers from the other three schools, North Stokes, Atkins and Walkertown, even managed to break 100 on the challenging 6,775-yard course. The lowest score among those teams was an 87 from Atkins’ D.J. Williams. As a team, the Vikings placed fourth, followed by the Camels and then the Wolfpack.
The meet was held simultaneously with the final meet of the Western Piedmont 2A, also at Cross Creek. The NW1A golfers began on the No. 1 tee, while the WP2A competitors teed off at No. 10 and then played the front nine after making the turn at 18. Erhardt’s score was the lowest carded by any of the golfers on the course Monday, beating the winning tally in the Western Piedmont tournament by two strokes.
Most of the top performers from this meet have qualified to compete in the 1A Midwest Regional at Elkin’s Cedarbrook Country Club on May 3. Mount Airy, Bishop, and East Surry have all qualified as teams, and the four best golfers who are not members of those teams will also be invited to compete.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.