Concord coaches lead second generation of players
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Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014

Concord coaches lead second generation of players

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- JOE HABINA
Concord assistant golf coach John Carroll, his son Stephen Carroll, and Walker Cress and his father, head coach Alan Cress, from left, lead the Concord High golf team. The fathers are Spiders alumni.
  • Five golfers to watch

    •  Walker Cress, Concord, Soph. – 5-foot-9. Last year’s runner-up for South Piedmont 3A Conference Player of the Year. Led Concord to a championship by averaging a 37.4 for nine holes in league play.

    •  Noah Edmondson, Cannon School, Jr. – 5-foot-10. Finished first at the NCISAA 3A state championship by shooting a 141 over 36 holes. The two-time all-state and all-conference selection is verbally committed to University of Arkansas.

    •  Will Gordon, Cannon School, Jr. – 6-foot-2. Ranked in the top 50 in the American Junior Golf Association’s Polo Rankings. Was the CISAA Player of the Year in 2013 and is verbally committed to Vanderbilt (Tenn.).

    •  Davis Kiger, Cannon School, Jr. – 5-foot-9. Transferred from Hickory Ridge, where he earned the South Piedmont 3A Conference Player of the Year last year. Ranked in the state’s top 50 junior golfers.

    •  Justin Westveer, Cox Mill, Sr. – Westveer finished third in the South Piedmont 3A after winning the conference title in 2012. Ranked in the state’s top 100 junior golfers.

It was almost 30 years ago that the Cress and Carroll families first made an impact on the Concord High boys’ golf team. Alan Cress and John Carroll were both all-conference players for the Spiders in the second half of the 1980s.

This season, Cress and Carroll have teamed up as Spiders again. Cress is Concord’s first-year head coach, and his former Spiders teammate is his assistant. Their bond will be even tighter as they coach a second generation of Cresses and Carrolls on the team.

Sophomore Walker Cress, last year’s runner-up for South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year, and freshman Stephen Carroll, an equally impressive player on the state’s junior golf circuit, are expected to help Concord battle for a conference championship.

The SPC was scheduled to open play March 10 with a match at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, Concord High’s home course. The Spiders will host Cannon School on March 13 and play their next SPC match March 19 at Crescent Golf Club in Salisbury.

John Carroll grew up on Beverly Drive, a mere golf-cart ride away from Concord High. A neighbor and classmate of his was Nancy Falls, Cress’s future wife.

By the time Cress played his freshman season at Concord High in 1985, Carroll was already a junior. The Spiders were coached by Bill Ford, who was nearing the end of his 30 years as a Concord coach and athletic director.

“(Alan and I) became friends when we became teammates,” said Carroll. “I remember we were glad to have Alan because he could play.”

Carroll was a three-time all-conference player, and Cress earned the honor twice. Cress was SPC Player of the Year in 1987 and again in 1988, when he also qualified for the 3A state tournament.

Cress joined the staff at Kannapolis Country Club (now The Club at Irish Creek) in 1991 and became its head golf pro in 2007. Carroll reconnected with Cress when he started playing golf again in the late 1990s.

They became even closer about three years ago when their sons, Walker Cress and Stephen Carroll, started playing in junior golf tournaments together.

But it wasn’t golf that brought the younger Cress and Carroll. It was baseball.

As grade-schoolers, the two played on the same 12-and-under AAU team. But within a couple of years, both were completely dedicated to golf.

By 2011, Cress and Carroll were playing in junior golf tournaments together. In the fall, they played the N.C. Middle School Championship tournament and claimed the title in the name of Concord Middle School.

Walker made a splash on the high school golf scene as a freshman last year. Carrying a conference scoring average of 37.4 for nine holes, he finished as runner-up at the South Piedmont Conference tournament and for the league’s Player of the Year.

Cress, senior Seth Roberts and sophomore Blaine Laszlo, an all-conference selection, led Concord to the regular-season and tournament championships. Alan Cress served as an assistant to head coach Howard Bertram.

“We started the season fourth or fifth best in the conference,” said Alan Cress. “Then it snowballed. One guy started playing well, and then they all started playing well. I think that was the key to the whole season: the kids believing in each other.”

The Spiders tied for third at the regional tournament, but they lost a tiebreaker and failed to qualify for the state tournament. The same thing happened to Cress in individual play.

Carroll is expected to make a big impact as a freshman. He’s coming off a fine summer and fall in which his best outings were ninth place at the Jimmy Creed Junior Invitational in May and third place at the Grandover Junior Championship in October.

Returning players expected to help the Spiders this season are juniors John Eury, Zayne Wilson and Maverick Chunn; and sophomores Ethan Wilder and Baine Wright; and newcomers Alex Simmons, a sophomore, and senior Graham Pruette.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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