07/03/07 — Vinson: Understudy finally takes lead role for C.B. Aycock golf team

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Vinson: Understudy finally takes lead role for C.B. Aycock golf team

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 3, 2007 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Throughout his high school career, Will Vinson quietly watched from the wings as numerous Charles B. Aycock teammates signed golf scholarships.

He wondered if his chance would ever come.

Vinson labored through his freshman and sophomore campaigns, and barely broke 80 on a consistent basis. But once he controlled his mental game, everything else took care of itself.

"I watched other players play and saw how they stayed calm the whole time," said Vinson. "I learned if you don't let anything bother you or affect your next shot, you can have a low round."

His scores steadily improved and he gained immeasurable confidence as his senior season approached. Vinson missed the first month with a knee injury (torn cartilage) and returned during C.B. Aycock's most-crucial stretch of its conference season.

That was the turning point, says Vinson.

The Golden Falcons entered a home match trailing Wilson Hunt by a few strokes in the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference standings. Aware of the match's significance and that four quality scores were needed, Vinson finally stepped into the leading role.

He carded a medal-winning 74 in blustery conditions. Aycock, as a team, fashioned a season-low 310 and leap-frogged over Hunt into first place -- a position Vinson and his teammates refused to give up. The Golden Falcons eventually captured their third straight ECC championship.

"That was probably the most-important match of my high school career," said Vinson, the 17-year-old son of Lillian and James Vinson of Fremont. "I put everything on my shoulders that match. If we had lost that, we may not have won conference."

Another boost in confidence and those gradual dropping scores drew the attention of Barton College men's golf coach John Hackney. He kept a watchful eye on Vinson's weekly performances and eventually contacted him to play next season at the perennial Division II power.

Vinson didn't hesitate and signed a national letter-of-intent during orientation.

"I watched all these players around me get recruited, but never thought that would happen to me," said Vinson, a three-time all-ECC selection. "I never expected this, but it's happened and it's a (big) thrill. All the hard work has finally paid off.

"I wanted to play for a winning team and I have a few friends who go there, and they enjoy it. I knew I wouldn't mind playing with one of my best friends, Jonathan Burke. It just seemed like the right fit."

Barton claimed the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference championship this past spring and advanced to the NCAA Division II Southeast/Atlantic Regional. The Bulldogs finished tied for third with Fayetteville State in the eight-team Atlantic portion.

Overall, Hackney's team posted seven top-five finishes in eight spring events.

Vinson said periodic discussions with Hackney and Burke kept him focused on earning the scholarship. Burke urged Vinson to play through the nagging knee injury and that he'd soon reap the rewards.

Vinson's confidence grew during a midseason phone conversation with Hackney. The two talked about Vinson's future and Hackney made no promises. The veteran coach quickly warned Vinson he was watching other talented golfers in the region.

"Coach said he had other recruits ... a lot of good players and few spots (on the team), so I needed to work harder to make the team," said Vinson. "He told me he'd keep an eye on my scores and that he'd keep in touch. I just practiced harder."

Vinson continued his steady progress. He set one goal each match -- play with no regrets.

"After I got done with my round, I wanted to make sure that I didn't leave a shot out there on the course," he said. "I tried my hardest on every single hole and I think that was the difference in my low scores."

But that midseason 74, says Vinson, certainly helped matters. Aycock stayed in control and just missed qualifying for the N.C. High School Athletic Association championships as a team. Vinson finished among the top three individuals on non-qualifying teams and made his third appearance in the state finals.

It's a season he won't soon forget.

"To win conference three times in a row and be the team leader this year, when people thought we'd have a weak team, there is nothing better," said Vinson.