South Charlotte

Weddington golfer calmly keeps focus

The Weddington Warriors just missed last year. Led this year by four seniors, they made it their goal to qualify for the state tournament.

The four strokes that cost the men's golf team a berth in the state championship last year could have been prevented. The Warriors have been working to make sure they avoid all extraneous strokes.

"It was bittersweet," said senior Matt Yelverton, the Southern Carolina Conference's best golfer.

"Although I was able to go individually, I still really wanted us to all go, it is such a great experience. We were playing so well and got so close, that we have focused on that from the start. I am giving it my all to make sure we make it."

Yelverton, who signed with Gardner Webb University, has a lot to give on the course, so chances are Weddington will be represented in the North Carolina state tournament this year.

He is the reigning SCC player of the year and entered the year as the 18th ranked junior golfer in North Carolina, qualified for the individual state tournament last year, and has won tournaments against the best area talent.

On the golf course Yelverton seems to have it all. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounder has a well-grooved swing and the desire to keep getting better. Like a lot of young golfers, he dreams of starting on the smaller pro tours and one day winding up playing on Sundays for the Professional Golf Association.

Warrior head coach Allen Plyler sees a special player who is ahead of most of his competitors.

"Matt's greatest attribute is his mental game. He plays smart and doesn't take too many chances on the course," Plyler said. "He also has a great demeanor and never loses his cool, which is a struggle for many amateur golfers. Any time I see Matt during a match, I have no idea if he is playing great or if he is struggling because his demeanor never changes."

That on-course demeanor is what sets Yelverton apart. He says it came from the help of his parents, coach Plyler and his swing coach, Jeff Avant, head golf pro at Rolling Hills Country Club in Monroe.

Going into a 2010 tournament, Yelverton played well the first day and was in the final pairing. After a few birdies he was able to settle into his round. Once he reached the 16th tee box, he figured he was in contention for the tournament title and he had to calm himself down.

Yelverton ended up winning the Trusted Choice Big I tournament by one stroke.

"It was pretty unbelievable," he said. "I knew going in some of the better players in the state would be there and after the first day I knew I was in contention."

Yelverton has been riding the momentum from that win into this year. His scores have ranged from 35 to 43 for nine holes, and he says putting is the barometer for how his round will go.

Yelverton credits Avant with much of his recent success.

"He is so great to work with and has taught me so much. I can almost self diagnose what is wrong with my swing by where the ball goes and where it comes off my club," Yelverton said. "I could never thank him enough for what he has done for my swing and my game."

Yelverton is looking forward to college life and competing on the golf team. His brother, Danny, is a sophomore outfielder and can help with the transition.

Yelverton still has his mind set on getting his team to the state tournament and having a good individual showing.

Plyler wouldn't bet against him.

"Matt will be successful because of his work ethic, strong character, and desire to always improve. He has never become complacent and always strives to improve his game," Plyler said.

"This quality is the reason he will be successful in the future, whether he is on the golf course or out in the business world."