05/02/08 — Eastern Wayne can't catch Hunt

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Eastern Wayne can't catch Hunt

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 2, 2008 1:49 PM

One by one, Jerry Pelt checked each scorecard.

He added the stroke totals in his head, scribbled on a tally sheet and eyed the final numbers. Eastern Wayne won its third Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference men's golf meet of the season, but Pelt's charges couldn't catch Wilson Hunt for the overall team championship.

The blue-and-white Warriors carded a four-player total of 323 on the Lane Tree Golf Club links and edged Eastern Wayne, which fired a 322, by five strokes for the title.

"This is probably the closest race they've had in the conference in a long time," said Hunt coach Glenn Jones.

Hunt, Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock claimed the league's team berths for next week's N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional at Lane Tree. Kinston's Jesse Shimer and Cole Kratzer, and Wilson Beddingfield's Michael Gardner and Ryan Jones qualified as individuals.

"We're not really disappointed," said Pelt. "We played well. This is the best group, top to bottom, that I've had since I've been head coach. I'm very proud of the whole team."

Eastern Wayne senior Kyle Ham seized medalist honors with a 2-over par 74 and grabbed a spot on the 11-player, all-conference team. Ham finished runner-up to Hunt's Paul Howell for player-of-the-year honors.

Nick Barrow and Eric Huetter also garnered all-ECC accolades for Eastern Wayne. Barrow compiled a 77, while Huetter turned in an 82 in final-round play.

Less than 10 days ago, Hunt owned a 17-stroke lead over Eastern Wayne with two meets remaining. Pelt's team whittled 11 strokes off the deficit on Tuesday and one more Thursday afternoon. But that tough outing at Wedgewood Golf Course was too much to overcome.

"We fell too far behind on the Wedgewood course," said Pelt. "From 12 up to 17 down, we dug ourselves a hole, but we fought back. On the positive side, if we step it up next week and shoot what we did today, we'll have a chance to make it to the state tournament.

"That's something we haven't done in a long time."

Hunt's victory ruined Aycock's bid for its fourth consecutive ECC crown.

The Golden Falcons, depleted by graduation each of the past two seasons, will take its youngest team to the regional. The only senior is three-time, all-conference performer Austin Forrest, who fired a final-round 77 on his home course.

Forrest played all season with the heartache of losing his father, Cliff, last November. The four-year varsity starter plays with a picture of his dad taped close to his heart on his chest each meet.

"He just wanted me to keep playing and give it everything I had," said Forrest, who broke his toe before Tuesday's match. "Overall, I've played all right (this season), but wish I could have played better. We were very young this year as a team and we just wanted to improve every match.

"We accomplished a lot."

Teammate C.P. Cranford carded an identical 18-hole round of 77 and picked up a spot on the all-conference squad. Fellow Golden Falcons Heyward Jeffreys and Brian Stephenson contributed scores of 85 and 88, respectively.

Shimer led Kinston with an 83 for the second consecutive meet. The Vikings scored a 339 and ended fourth overall in the season-long team competition. Wilson Beddingfield (345) and Southern Wayne (366) wound up fifth and sixth, respectively.