BERMUDA RUN — Only 32 golfers in the state of North Carolina were good enough to make it to the match play round of the Carolina Golf Association’s 21st annual North Carolina Junior Girls’ Championships earlier this week.
One of those 32 was the reigning Northwest 1A Conference Player of the Year and conference champion Alyssa Cox of Mount Airy High School.
Cox, who qualified for the single-elimination match play round by finishing in the top 32 on the first two days of the dual-format tournament, earned the 19th seed for match play, but drew a hot-hand in opponent Rachael Mast of Lexington, who ultimately advanced from the 14th seed all the way to the state championship match on Saturday, where she lost to top-seeded Kathryn Carson of Mooresville.
Mast, who had finished just ahead at Cox at both regionals and the state 1A/2A golf championships last fall, nipped Cox in their match by a count of 2 and 1, meaning she was ahead by two holes on the 18-hole, 5,888-yard par-72 course with just one left to play. On a roll, Mast went on to beat the third seed by the same score and then beat the sixth seed by “1 up,” meaning she was ahead by one hole after completing all 18. She annihilated her opponent in the state semifinals 5 and 4.
A full field of standout high school golfers from North Carolina had taken part in the first round of the championship, which was contested on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Bermuda Run Country Club. Cox, who will be a junior at Mount Airy this fall, was one of only two golfers from the area to compete. Forbush standout Mallory Fobes also played in the tournament.
On Tuesday, Cox made bogey on her first three holes of stroke play, but then settled down and played the rest of the front nine in even par to make the turn at 3-over 38. She ended the day at seven-over 79 and was right on the bubble for advancing to the final 32 for match pay with one day to go.
On Tuesday, she opened with a birdie at the par-4 first hole and then made par on the next eight, making the turn for day two at one-under for the day and six-over for the event. She struggled on the back nine, including a ghastly quadruple-bogey 9 on the difficult 519-yard 15th hole, but recovered in time to shoot 78 for the day and ended up beating the cut by nine strokes at 79-78 — 157.
Cox had entered the tournament as the state’s 69th-ranked female golfer under the age of 18, according to the Tarheel Youth Golf Association’s rankings. However, she has turned in a series of very impressive performances in tournament play during the past year, including her fifth-place finish in the NCHSAA 1A/2A state championships on Oct. 24. Had there been a separate 1A championship, Cox would have been state champion. However, on Nov. 13, Cox was victorious at the The Warrior Tournament on the North Carolina Junior Golf Tour. She finished second two weeks later at another NJGT event, and in fact has placed in the top 10 of seven of the 12 sanctioned events she’s competed in during the last 12 months.
Cox and her teammates finished third as a team among 1A schools at the state championships, and the 40 points earned from that finish helped the Granite Bears build an early lead in the Wells Fargo Cup standings, which they held throughout the school year and became the first traditional 1A school to win the Cup since 2008.
Her most recent performance prior to this week came from April 29-May 1 at the Metrolina Classic in Rock Hill, S.C. At this event, which featured many of the top junior golfers in both Carolinas, Cox finished in 21st place.
Cox is a solid college golf prospect should she choose to pursue the sport at the next level, and is expected to return to lead the Lady Bears in their quest for a state championship this fall.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.