When Emily Herron was a freshman, in 2011, most of her peers didn’t realize Charlotte Latin had a girls’ golf team.
At the time, there were only five players on the Hawks squad, with Herron the only golfer with extensive experience.
“I remember people at Latin, even some of my friends, would say to me, ‘Oh wait, we have a girls’ golf team?’ ” said Herron, now a senior at Charlotte Latin. “The team has grown so much since then. To see the progress we’ve made really makes me proud to be a part of this program.”
Led by head coach Robin Griffith, the Hawks’ girls golf team has finished ninth in the state the past two seasons, improving its team score at the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A tournament from 332 in 2012 to 301 last season.
Herron has been the catalyst for Latin in each of her three seasons, finishing fifth individually at states as a sophomore and coming in tied for seventh last season.
Herron also finished as CISAA conference runner-up in 2013 and took third place in the conference as a sophomore.
While Herron, 17, already was excited about her senior season, she got an even bigger boost when she found out former Ardrey Kell standout Moon Cheong decided to transfer to Latin.
“Right after I took one of my exams (last school year), I got in my car, looked at my phone and I found out Moon was coming to Latin through her post on Instagram,” said Herron, who drives the ball about 250 yards off the tee and says Paula Creamer and Adam Scott are her favorite golfers. “I was so excited I immediately called coach Griffith to tell her.”
Griffith also remembers the call. “Emily is all about the team,” Griffith said. “When she found out Moon was coming here, she was so excited because she knew we would have another golfer like her who plays year round. I think we all were immediately excited about the potential of what this team could do with a player like Moon.”
Cheong, a rising sophomore who will turn 15 on Aug. 26, finished as 4A West Regional and 4A state runner-up as a freshman at Ardrey Kell. Cheong, who averaged a team-best 36.9 per nine holes last season, also helped the Knights to a 4A state team championship.
“Last year was a great experience for me (at Ardrey Kell),” said Cheong, who hits about 230 yards off the tee and lists Rory McIlroy, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie as her favorite golfers. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of success in my career and been able to help my teams have success. You always want to keep growing and keep building. I hope to be able to help the Latin team do that and have the same type of success here.”
Both Herron (No. 46) and Cheong (No. 28) are also in the top 50 in Tarheel Youth Golf Association’s N.C. Junior Girls’ rankings. While they didn’t know each other well before this season, Cheong and Herron both train at the Dana Rader Golf School in Ballantyne.
Cheong and Herron will provide a one-two punch that could make Latin a contender for the CISAA and state titles.
Pat Whisnant, head coach of three-time defending NCISAA champion Cannon School, already has acknowledged the Hawks as state contenders.
Senior Sarah Traxler, juniors Lena Brewer and Jennifer Chappell and five freshmen will join Cheong and Herron to field the biggest Latin girls’ golf team when the season starts Aug. 25 against Charlotte Catholic at Raintree Country Club.
“I am so excited for this team as a whole,” said Griffith, a 1978 Latin graduate who played college tennis at North Carolina and was a 4-handicap on the golf course at one time. “When I came here I just wanted to help promote girls’ golf and help this team improve. To see all success these girls have had and could have in future makes me smile and feel even better about this program.”
None of the Hawks’ success would have been possible without Griffith, said Herron.
While Latin golfers say they feel good about the team’s chances this season, they know it won’t be easy. The conference includes Cannon, Providence Day (third at states last year) and Charlotte Country Day (seventh at states).
“Winning a team state championship would be a dream come true,” said Herron, who also would love to claim an individual state title. “I know how hard this team has worked, I know how far this team has come, so to win it all together would be an ideal finish.”