With one team winning its state-championship tournament and two players from another school finishing near the top in their state-finals match, 2015 might be the best season of high school boys’ golf Cabarrus County has ever seen.
On May 12, Cannon School won the 3A N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state title at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro.
The same day, 75 miles away at Southern Pines’ Longleaf Golf and Country Club, Concord High’s Stephen Carroll and Walker Cress tied for third and ninth, respectively, at the 3A N.C. High School Athletic Association state tournament.
Cannon School’s championship is the first by a high school boys’ golf team in Cabarrus County history. The Cougars girls’ team has won four straight state titles from 2011-2014. Cannon has produced three individual state champions between boys and girls over the last three years.
“(It was) their resolve, their tenacity,” said Cannon coach Pat Whisenant. “They were ready to win and they knew they could. There was harmony. They were helping each other. There was better leadership on their part.”
the team championship follows a couple years in which Cannon got close enough to be disappointed, including a second-place finish in 2013. The Cougars were a favorite to claim the title last year but had trouble finding a groove, placing third.
With only one player graduating from last year’s team, Cannon was encouraged by its state championship chances. The Cougars’ lineup is loaded with probable NCAA Division I talent.
Cannon has four seniors who will play in college next year: Noah Edmondson (Arkansas), Will Gordon (Vanderbilt), Davis Kiger (High Point) and Anthony Perrino (Georgetown).
Kiger, from Harrisburg, and Edmondson, Gordon and freshman Michael Sanders, all from Davidson, made the all-state team.
Kiger was the individual medalist at the Charlotte Independent School Athletic Association tournament, which Cannon also won.
At the state tournament, Cannon was 13-over par after the first 18 holes and led Christ School by five strokes. The Cougars shot a 3-over par for the second round and separated themselves from Christ School by 11 shots by the time they finished.
Whisenant said the match still was close after the first nine holes of the second day. It was a 30-minute stretch in which four Cannon golfers each birdied holes that made the difference.
Edmonson, Gordon and Sanders each birdied the par-3 No. 16, while Kiger took just three shots to finish the par-4 15th hole. It was then, Whisenant said, he finally felt some relief.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said of the title win. “I think about the heartbreak and the struggles of the last four years.”
In terms of public schools, no Cabarrus team or individual has ever won a state title, though at least a couple have been close.
Northwest Cabarrus (1988, seventh place), Mount Pleasant (2008, 10th) and Robinson (2011, sixth) all have sent teams to the state tournament. Individually, Robinson’s Trevor Cone finished fourth at the 2011 3A state tournament.
According to NCHSAA records, the most notable accomplishment by a boys’ golfer from Cabarrus County is held by Chris Tucker. In 1971, the Central Cabarrus golfer shot a 62 in a match against A.L. Brown at Cabarrus County Club, still a state record for an 18-hole round.
Carroll, a sophomore, and Cress, a junior, are friends away from the course and often compete in the same junior tournaments. Their fathers, Alan Cress and John Carroll, are Concord’s head and assistant coaches, respectively.
“We’ve grown up together,” said Stephen Carroll. “We really started getting competitive in golf in the seventh and eighth grades. Neither one of us like to lose. It gives us motivation to beat each other.”
Cress won a three-player playoff after 18 holes and claimed the 3A Midwest Regional title at the Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, his home course. Carroll tied for fifth place.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win (the regional),” said Cress. “I was feeling pretty good coming down the stretch. I made some putts. On the last hole, I made an up-and-down and put myself in a playoff on No. 9 at Irish Creek.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.