SOUTHERN PINES — If there was ever a time when finishing second felt like finishing first, this had to be it.
Mount Airy came into Tuesday’s second and final day of the NCHSAA 1A/2A state golf championships looking to pull off the upset of upsets — winning a 2A state championship as a 1A school. The Lady Bears started the day just 10 strokes behind 2A powerhouse Currituck County, in a strong second-place position.
The odds were too long on day two. The Lady Knights pulled away and won the state title by 29 strokes, while another 2A team, West Davidson, challenged the Lady Bears for second place in the team standings. The final three groupings of the day at the Longleaf Golf and Family Club consisted of one golfer from each team, meaning Currituck, Mount Airy and West Davidson went head-to-head down the stretch.
The Lady Bears had already assured themselves of being the low-scoring 1A team by the time the teams reached the final holes on Tuesday, but West Davidson had closed the gap in the team tally and had a chance to deny Mount Airy the state runner-up trophy. On the final hole of the event, the 304-yard 18th hole, Davidson’s Olivia Sharpe and the Lady Bears’ Alyssa Cox were part of the final threesome, with Mount Airy up by two shots. Cox had scuffled a bit on day two, and when Sharpe parred the hole, it meant Cox had to at least save bogey for the Lady Bears to finish second outright. She did, although the result of the hole left both golfers tied for second individually.
The Lady Bears’ star had received some help from her teammates Bailey Flippen and Mattie Noonkester beforehand. They had each faced another West Davidson golfer on 18 just before the final grouping. Flippen had gained two strokes and Noonkester one on their opponents, which had not only restored the Lady Bears to second position on the course, but gave Cox a one-shot cushion to boot.
Mount Airy, which finished only third at the Central Regional last week, got an opening round of 82 from Cox and ended the first day far ahead of both of the teams which had beaten it at regionals, West Davidson and East Wilkes. Both of these teams improved their first-day performances on Tuesday, while Cox had a bit of an off-day and shot just 87 on day two. Freshman teammate Noonkester was also off her game, following up Monday’s 95 with a round of 108. However, senior Flippen, in her final day on the links for the Lady Bears, stepped up her game and shot 101, five shots better than she had on the first day.
Cox’ 87 wasn’t enough for her to retain the distinction of the best 1A golfer in the field which she had achieved a year ago, but only two rivals, Alexis Jarrell of Davidson and Grace Jones of Hayesville, did better.
Perhaps even more importantly, by finishing first among 1A teams at the meet, the Lady Bears will be treated as a state champion in computing Wells Fargo Cup points as MAHS looks to defend that title.
Several other local golfers qualified for the finals as individuals. Forbush’s Mallory Fobes ended up finishing second overall, cutting two strokes off her opening round of 78. Her 78-76 — 154 put her 10 strokes behind individual state champ Katherine Schuster of First Flight. Ellie Kidd of Surry Central shot 98 on day two, and her two-day total of 192 tied her for 29th place. Savanah Atkins had a two-day total of 214, while East Surry’s Madison Bowman ended at 208 for the two days of competition.