South Charlotte

Youth proving no handicap for this year's Mustangs

Philip Oweida walked to the green of the 18th hole at Charlotte National Golf Club at 3 under par.

Oweida was in the second group at the Southwestern 4A golf tournament last week, and the Myers Park golfer had never broken 70 before. He could two-putt for a 69.

He didn't know it at the time, but his teammate in the first group, Andy Simmons, had finished with a 69. Oweida's 20-foot first putt went four feet past the hole. He said he felt a little rain on his back.

When he stepped up to his ball a second time, the rain came pouring down. Instead of waiting or taking his time, he asked the other golfers if he could go ahead and finish. He missed the second putt and finished with a 70, good for second place.

"He always beats me by one, it seems like," said Oweida of Simmons. "I knew he was probably going to shoot 69, so I tried to make that putt to tie him, but also just for me."

Myers Park's top two golfers are competing constantly. Over the weekend, they played in a inner-club match play tournament at Carmel Country Club. The competition between the two has helped them lead Myers Park to a second-straight conference tournament championship and a berth in last Monday's 4A Western Regional championship.

And they're only sophomores.

The whole Mustang team is young. David Spears is the only senior among the top six golfers. Twins Davis and Austin Morrison are sophomores and Jordan Warren is a junior. Even the coach, 26-year-old Jason Lockwood, is in his first year leading the Mustangs after taking over for longtime coach Dave Layton.

The youth doesn't seem to hurt the Mustangs.

Simmons, 16, was named conference player of the year for the second-straight time this year by winning the conference tournament. He's been playing golf with his dad, L.D. Simmons, since he was little and started playing tournament golf when he was about 14. He used to play soccer, but it took up too much time. He still plays basketball for fun in the winter.

"I like the individual thing (with golf), being on my own, not really having to rely on anyone else," said Simmons.

Simmons was the No. 3 golfer last year behind two seniors. After winning the conference tournament, he shot a 72 in the 2010 4A Western Regional to help Myers Park to a team title. He wasn't happy with his performance at the state match (two scores in the 80s).

Simmons has been No. 1 all year and has a nine-hole stroke average of 37.5. Lockwood said he consistently shoots around par every match.

Oweida, 16, has been a little inconsistent this season. He could shoot a 32 one day and 38 the next. But the sophomore has been playing only for about five years.

"He's one of the best ball-strikers I've ever seen," said Lockwood. "He's new to the game, he's still got a lot to learn, but as far as talent-wise, he's got a lot of talent. Probably the most talent on the team, to be honest."

Oweida is the No. 2 golfer, averaging 37.8. Lockwood said Oweida got a big boost in the Carmel High School Challenge at Carmel Country Club in April, where he shot a 71 (though he finished with two bogeys) and won the individual title. Myers Park won the team title.

"He's shooting scores that he never shot in the past before and he's getting some confidence and realizing, 'Now I can do this every time out,'" said Lockwood.

Myers Park went undefeated through last year's regional, and most of its matches this year were not very competitive.

"There's more competition to play in the matches than there is in the actual match," said Simmons.

Then Ardrey Kell upset the Mustangs on their home course, beating them 146-148 in March.

It was the Mustangs' only loss on the season and cost them the regular-season title.

"I've been telling them all year every team's coming out there to try to beat you, they're going to give you their best shot," said Lockwood.

"I think it was an eye-opener for us, and hopefully they stay focused and realize that anything can happen and it's a battle.

"Every hole counts and every shot counts."

The Mustangs showed their focus in the conference tournament, posting the two lowest scores with Simmons and Oweida and easily winning the team competition by 14 strokes.

Simmons said he hopes he can improve on last year's regional and state performances - but if he doesn't, there's always junior and senior year.