CHARLOTTE – Jason Lockwood has had a very successful run guiding the Myers Park golf team for the better part of the last decade.
In his ninth season, Lockwood has never had a Mustang team finish out of the top three at the state tournament. It’s an awesome accomplishment, especially for a Charlotte area deprived of an NCHSAA 4A champion since Providence won it all back in 1996, way before any current high-schoolers were born.
The reasons are varied, but Research Triangle-area schools like Broughton, Green Hope and Pinecrest, which plays on the state championship course, have won often.
Then there’s the numbers. Golf teams can bring five golfers to states – although just four score – with an alternate. Myers Park has had very strong top-fives in the past, and have shot lower scores than they did at this year’s state tournament, but they’ve never had the same results.
The Southwestern 4A conference tournament offered little resistance and the Mustangs cruised to an 11-stroke win at the 4A Western Regional tournament.
There, Thomas Eubanks was the individual regional champ with a low round of 69. Luke Hackworth followed with a 72, which tied for third.
“Thomas and Luke are my 1-2 and carried us all year,” Lockwood said. “They were probably within a couple of shots of each other all year and they were consistent every time out.”
Pearse Lucas (73), Ben Moorehead (75) and Cole Chambers (80) rounded out the scoring for the Mustangs, giving them a 289-300 advantage over runner-up Ardrey Kell.
“Cole, Ben, Pearse and Grant Smith were all in the mix for the top five and would sort of go back and forth all year,” Lockwood said. “That was a huge strength for us to have five very solid guys in the tournament and competition all year.”
Lockwood said that competition was key.
While Hackworth and Eubanks were the lead guys, Lockwood would still mix his lineup of 12 golfers around during in-season events and give them equal chances to be in the top five.
Chambers is a good example of how that system is beneficial. Last season, Chambers didn’t make the team after he didn’t play well at a tryout, but this season he’s a top-five player.
“Cole has worked his butt off,” Lockwood said. “He was concentrating solely on making the team because I think he had a bad tryout and didn’t make it last year. He’s just now getting into playing tournaments, but he’s been really good for us all year and in that mix.”
After the regional win, the Mustangs traveled to Pinehurst No. 8 and finished the first day of the tournament two strokes back of New Bern after carding a 301.
Even worse, there was a group of six teams bunched up in windy conditions entering the second day.
“I thought we were in a really good position down two,” Lockwood said. “I knew the wind was going to be an issue … but in the back of my mind I’m thinking that we have five guys and if one of their guy messes up it will give us an advantage.”
At the state tournament, the top three teams go off the front nine while the next three go off the back simultaneously. Lockwood said there’s no way to tell who is playing well or where teams stand, although he knew the Mustangs had beaten their group, which finished several holes faster than their counterparts.
Whispers started spreading that New Bern and Broughton were tearing it up, but Lockwood and his team stayed positive.
They’d played well in the conditions. Chambers led the team by tying for sixth with a two-day 147 and was followed by Hackworth (148, ninth overall), Lucas (150, T-13th) and Moorehead (159, T-40th).
Eubanks, the regional champ, had struggled with a 161 and didn’t count in the final tally.
With six teams finishing clumped within 11 strokes, Myers Park prevailed with a two-shot win over New Bern and a four-stroke turnaround to win the schools first state title since 1956 when the Mustangs won four of five titles, also winning 1952 through 1954.
“I think it was relief and excitement because I think we hit a little rough patch there in the middle of our round and you hear teams like Broughton are playing well and you just don’t know,” Lockwood said.“It’s just such a hard tournament to win. We won a lot of big tournaments during the year, but this is something different. It seems like we finally broke through the wall and brought one home to Charlotte.”