The Charlotte Country Day boys golf team struggled to close last year. They led going into the last day of the Palmetto High School Golf Championship in Myrtle Beach but struggled on the back nine and lost.
In last year's N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association state match, the Buccaneers struggled with their putting and finished fourth.
"Last year we could have done a lot better," said senior Al Dickens.
This year, Dickens and fellow senior Wilson Trent hope they can improve on last year's performance.
The Bucs finished 38-12 last year and lost only one individual match. They return four starters from that team, including two all-conference performers, Dickens and junior Robert Gilmour.
"This year looks pretty promising," said Trent. "Everyone's gotten a lot better. ... I feel like we definitely have a shot, we just have to play better in tournaments."
Dickens and Trent will be key in helping Country Day this year.
Dickens, who turns 18 on March 18, started playing golf with his father when he was 3 and started playing in tournaments at 11. He played football and basketball through middle school but quit after his sophomore year to focus on golf.
Over the summer, he won the Bubba Watson Junior Classic in High Point, one of 20 summer tournaments he entered last year.
"It's gotten to be a big part of my life the last few years," he said. "It was the sport I enjoyed the most. I had a lot of people tell me I had a lot of potential."
Dickens' potential turned into an offer to play golf East Carolina next year. He said he really liked the coach, Press McPhaul, and thinks it will give him a good opportunity to play after college.
"It's a big relief to know where I'm going," said Dickens, adding he can now focus on improving his game the rest of the season and through the summer.
Trent, 17, didn't start playing seriously until his sophomore year. He played for fun before that, but while growing up his main sports were baseball and soccer. He stopped playing baseball as a freshman and soccer as a junior.
"I've always played, I just really started taking it seriously recently," said Trent.
Trent was invited to the Big "I" National Championship, the nation's largest junior stroke-play golf tournament, in July 2010. Though he didn't make the cut, Country Day golf coach Bob Plyer said it shows the improvement he's made.
"He's just gradually come up the ladder, so to speak," said Plyer, who is in his 34th year of coaching at Country Day.
Trent wasn't one of the six scoring golfers at the state meet as a freshman, but now he's committed to play golf at Centre College (Kentucky) next year.
"I think they're going to be very happy having him the next four years," said Plyer.
Plyer is happy to have the two for one more season. He said the seniors work hard at every practice.
"There's a purpose when they practice," he said. "They have something in mind when they're hitting balls."
In addition to their physical play, Plyer thinks their mental toughness will give Country Day a better chance of winning its 10th state title. He called the seniors "grinders" who can work through tough times on the court.
"They're the kind of kids that could make bogey the first three or four holes in an event and you'd never know in their demeanor how it's going," he said.
Trent and Dickens said they're both focused on being leaders this year and helping motivate the underclassmen.
"We just want to help the team out as much as we can," said Dickens.
They hope they can help them all the way to a state championship.
"The state championship is something I have been thinking about since freshman year," said Dickens.