Verner Stanley knows all about Myers Park High’s storied golf tradition.
He lived it.
Stanley helped the Mustangs to their third straight N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship as a freshman in 1954. He also won the N.C. individual state title as a junior in 1956, as Myers Park was on the way to a fourth state championship in five years.
Stanley enjoyed a distinguished junior golf career. He became the youngest player to qualify for the United States’ Junior Amateur – in 1952 at age 12. He went onto to play golf at Davidson (1957-1960), where he won the Southern Conference championship as both an individual and team in 1960.
At age 76, Stanley still holds the Myers Park golf team close to his heart. He’s close with some of the current players like, all-state senior Henry Shimp.
Shimp and Stanley met at Charlotte Country Club, where they are both members.
“I see in those young guys some of the things that we had, and I see them doing some of the same things that we had fun doing on the same Myers Park team years ago,” Stanley said. “The game has changed, the equipment has changed. But I admire the players and love to watch them hit the golf ball. But what I love even more is the fact that they are also great young gentleman and students. That is why I am still interested in keeping up with these young men and this team.”
The Mustangs have enjoyed a lot of success in the past five years, under coach Jason Lockwood. They have won five straight, Southwestern 4A conference titles and four of the past five 4A West Regional championships.
But the one title that has eluded them is the 4A state championship.
The team has come painfully close. They finished as state runnerup in 2011 and 2013 and placed third in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
But, the Mustangs haven’t won a golf state championship since Stanley’s junior season in 1956. That’s a 60-year-drought.
“We want to win every match, every tournament that we play in, but the state championship in definitely the one we really want,” Shimp said. “We want to be the team that breaks the drought. It makes it even cooler that we have gotten to know Mr. Stanley and that he was on the last team to win it all at Myers Park.”
Lockwood said he has the team to win a state title. He has three Division I golf signees in seniors, Shimp (Stanford University), Walker Simas (Wofford College) and Will Simmons (Davidson). He also has junior, Jack Brea, sophomore, Rex Brietz and two standout freshmen in Thomas Eubanks and Grant Smith (a Wake Forest commit).
The Mustangs are unbeaten in regular season play. They won at the North State High School Golf Challenge (March 18-19), at the Club at Irish Creek (Concord).
The team’s focus remains on being at their best each round.
“We try to focus on just being consistent,” Lockwood said. “Eventually if you keep knocking on the door, you will break the door down …Our chances to win states are as good as they have been in the last four to five years. We have as deep a team as we’ve had with seven or eight players that could make the starting lineup (top five) on a given day. That competition really pushes our guys to work hard every day.”
Shimp said the team is focused on the process leading up to the two-day state tournament May 9-10 at Pinehurst.
“We know the goal is to win it all, but we don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, to where it puts too much pressure on us,” said Shimp, who is ranked No. 4 in the state junior rankings by Tar Heel Youth Golf Association. “We want to try to go into states and look at it as just another tournament. Our goal is to win every tournament.”
Lockwood, Shimp and Stanley all agree a state title would mean a lot to generations of Myers Park golfers.
“Winning a state championship would be a very special moment for this team,” Lockwood said. “But it’s not just about this team, it’s about winning for all the players and all the teams that didn’t win one. That motivates us even more.”
While history has not been on the Myers Park golf team’s side for the last six decades, Stanley says this could be the Mustangs time.
“It’s hard to believe that we haven’t won a state championship since we played, with all the success they have had as a team over the years,” Stanley said. “I hope this is the year they bring a championship home again. It would mean a lot everyone who has played at Myers Park.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.