Wildcats enjoy return to top
The Westchester Country Day golf team was very displeased with how it performed in last year’s state championship, coming into this season. And that feeling never really left until it regained the championship.
The second-ranked Wildcats, who won back-to-back team titles in 2010 and 2011, took home their third NCISAA 2A state championship Tuesday, after shooting 308-299—607 to hold off top-ranked St. David’s, which finished second with a 315-300—615.
“It was huge,” coach Adam Schwartz said of last year’s finish as motivation. “It really stunk, being runner-up. They didn’t want to go to dinner or anything afterward. It hurt them, so they really worked hard. And I think they really bought into the team golf attitude.”
With talented sophomore Thomas Walsh and up-and-coming freshman Hardin Councill returning to lead the team, Westchester, which struggled in the rain and finished nine shots behind Arendell Parrott Academy last year, knew it was pretty good.
When sophomore Russell Marion began playing well early on, that was another piece in place. The biggest question was getting a fourth score, with players like junior Tommy Frungillo, sophomore Jacob Allison and eighth-grader Jake Weiland contributing.
“About midway through the season, when we got a couple 35s from Russell, Hardin shot 30, and Jake shot even-par, I knew we had it there,” said Walsh, who tied with Councill for second individually. “Everyone had the potential of shooting even-par.”
Perhaps the biggest eye-opener for the Wildcats was playing in the N.C. High School Invitational on April 22 at Treyburn Country Club. Among an 11-team field comprising the previous year’s champion and runner-up teams, Westchester finished 10th.
It was a humbling finish, but the experience showed them exactly what they should expect at that level and how they should prepare, mainly in how to manage their play and their scores with the team total — and a state championship — in mind.
“We had a meeting and I said: If you can hit the shot 10 out of 10 times, then do it,” Walsh said. “You don’t want to be that one shot that costs us the state championship. And I had one of those today. I told myself that if it costs us the state championship, then I’d hate myself.
“But I said that you don’t want to have one of those. Play it smart — take your par, maybe make birdie and take bogey out of the equation. It’s hard, but we did it — everyone did it. We learned it the hard way in the middle of the season. So, we finally got it.”
After finishing the regular season strong, Westchester opened the state tournament Monday with a solid first round at Talamore Golf Resort — where it also won its previous two titles — as Councill fired a 70 to tie for the individual lead and the team led by six shots.
Then, in the final round, the Wildcats shot their best-ever score at states (299) to win by eight, as Walsh (72-71—143) and Councill (70-73—143) tied for second, Marion (79-72—151) tied for ninth and Weiland provided that key fourth score both days for a 87-83—170 total.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” Schwartz said. “With the pressure and the stress of the state tournament, the young guys really drew from their experiences from the year. I tried to make a really hard schedule, make it competitive in practice. They fought hard and did what they needed to do.”