Lake Norman & Mooresville

East Lincoln pair leads Mustangs to SPC golf title

Mattie Tobey and Brittany Smith couldn't be more different.

Tobey, a senior, is an outgoing and talkative brunette who has been playing golf since she was 7.

Smith, a sophomore, is a more reserved and quiet blonde who picked up a club for the first time in the sixth grade.

Off the course they are polar opposites, but when they hit the greens for East Lincoln, they both have the same focus - to win.

"When Mattie started playing for us as a freshman, she made it to states," said East Lincoln golf coach Barbara Haggart.

"Last year, as a freshman, Brittany came in second place a couple of times, but she was more of our third scorer. This year she's really come through, taking the second scoring position. Before Mattie just carried us, now she has more help."

Tobey has been a key player for the Mustangs in the last few years. She finished tied for ninth place at states her sophomore year and in a three-way tie for third in the state last season.

This year, she was named the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference Player of the Year after a consistent conference season that culminated in shooting a tournament low 35 at the Oct. 12 conference meet. The Mustangs shot a combined 127 to clinch their third consecutive SPC title.

Tobey's personal goal was to shoot in the 20s this year.

"It hasn't worked out so well," she said. "I shot a 32 as a freshman. ... I haven't done that again since."

Her best round this season was a 34 against Charlotte Catholic. Still, the player who can be found on the greens after team practice everyday and on weekends hasn't let any of that get her, or her teammates down.

"This hasn't been my best season yet, but it's golf, you have ups and downs. I'm hoping to have a couple more ups."

Smith improved tremendously this year. She opened up the season by shooting a 39 in her first conference match at Cowan's Country Club.

"My best last year was a 45," she said. "I practiced over the summer to get better, and I felt pretty good this year."

Smith and Tobey were the only two Mustangs named to the all-conference team, but the East Lincoln team as a whole was more balanced this season.

In addition to Tobey and Smith, other top performers for the Mustangs included senior Ashley Jennings and junior Tori Morgan, who battled for the team's No. 3 spot all season long.

Newcomers, and sisters, Patricia and Heather Baker also had a good season.

Haggart, who was named conference coach of the year, said her players worked on their putts this year, and improvement has been seen all around.

"From the beginning this summer, we concentrated on the short game, because that is generally where you score," said Haggart. "You get on the green, and with no more than two putts, you generally score."

And as a team, the Mustangs have been poised and prepared, except for maybe one match.

"The 18-hole match was a disaster," said Smith. "Everyone was tired."

The team lost the match, their only conference loss of the year. East Lincoln finished the SPC season with a 23-1 record.

"Everyone knew what we had to do after that match," said Tobey.

Since qualifying for regionals as a team last year for the first time in school history, no one on the Mustangs squad wanted to go backwards.

They won conference again, easily, but this year, the goal was to qualify for states as a team. The team recently found out that Haggart is retiring at the end of this season, which may add more fuel to their collective fire.

Tobey, who has verbally committed to Texas Tech, competed at regionals Monday along with Jennings, Morgan, Smith and Patricia Baker trying to get the team a berth at the state tournament.

There may still be a lot ahead for Smith and Tobey. If the pair of Mustangs qualify for states, they will compete in the championships Nov. 1 and 2 at Longleaf Country Club in Southern Pines.

Smith has already started thinking about the pressure of ensuring the Mustangs continue their conference championship dynasty next year.

Tobey said that regardless of whether she plays in her fourth consecutive state tournament, she is happy with how far her team has come this season.

"We felt really good at conference," said Tobey. "As a team we've gotten really strong. It all worked out so far for everyone."

Erica Singleton is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Erica? E-mail her at esing44@yahoo.com.

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