At last season’s N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4A Western Regional, the Myers Park golf team had three players tie atop the leaderboard and another pair of golfers shoot 75 and finish in the top 12, affording the Mustangs a two-shot win and the regional crown.
This year, with only one of those golfers – sophomore Henry Shimp – returning to defend their regional title, it was thought that the Mustangs may struggle. But that couldn’t have been further from what happened as Shimp took the regional individual championship and junior Hoke Carlton, fresh off his win at the Southwestern 4A conference tournament, claimed second place with a 69, helping the Mustangs to a 289 team score and an 11-stroke run away regional tournament win.
“I thought we definitely had something to prove,” Carlton said. “We lost a ton of guys but I think some of the guys who came up this year realized that we needed to work harder and we started doing that in the offseason and it showed.”
And, quite possibly, nobody had a bigger impact than Carlton.
The junior began playing tournaments competitively just last season and with this being the first time he’d stepped into a high school team atmosphere, he was admittedly slow to get going.
“Last summer was really my first summer of playing in a lot of tournaments but those are just individual tournaments,” Carlton said. “When you throw in the team aspect of it, it’s a whole different story. It definitely took a little while to get used to that and the first couple of tournaments I didn’t get off to the best starts because I was nervous and wasn’t sure how to handle
Carlton caught on quickly, though, and by the time his season was finished, he’d done enough to win the 2014 South Charlotte Weekly Boys Golfer of the Year award, an honor he’s certainly deserving of.
At the Southwestern 4A tournament, Carlton got out of the gates in decent shape in the first 13 holes, but tore up the final five holes, shooting 4-under par during the home stretch, and wound up as the Southwestern 4A Player of the Year with a tournament-winning
At the regional championship, Carlton was a big factor in the Mustangs’ win, firing a second-place 69 which he backed up with a two-day 151, which tied him for 13th at the state tournament where the Mustangs came in fourth place.
But, even with all that he and his Mustang teammates accomplished together, they’re set to come back even stronger next year as most everyone is set to return.
“I think the experience I encountered in team play is invaluable and will really help next year and it will help me individually over the summer,” Carlton said. “I was able to put together a few good rounds and was able to convince myself that I can go low, that I can shoot under par and I think we proved as a team that we can compete with anyone if we keep working at it.
“It means a lot to be on a team with so many great guys who are also terrific players. It makes it a lot easier and you know that even if you’re not having your best day there are five other guys who can step up.”
Carlton said he’s planning on spending his summer golfing and working on a few minor details of his game to come back even stronger next year. And if his debut season is any indication, the Mustangs will be in line to at the very least add another regional title in their quest to win Mecklenburg County’s first team state championship since the 1996 Providence Panthers.
“I think we realize we have more work to do if we’re going to win the state championship next year but I think considering we had four guys playing in their first state championship, I didn’t think it was that bad,” he said “I think it gives us a lot of experience and a lot of confidence heading into next