Nichols, Bison just miss state cut
Often, in golf, only a shot or two makes the difference. How disappointingly true that was for High Point Central on Thursday in the NCHSAA 4A Midwest Regional at Oak Hollow Golf Course.
The Bison, as a team, finished just two shots out of qualifying for next week’s state championship at Pinehurst. Then, in an unexpected finish among the team scores, Central’s Kasey Nichols ended up just one shot shy of qualifying individually.
“The boys played well. Two strokes from the states,” Bison coach Kim Stalnaker said. “What can I say? … It is a disappointment. When you finish (fifth) and they take the top three teams, it’s a disappointment. Of course it is — everyone’s disappointed. But they’ll be back next year.”
Central finished fifth with a 307 behind Northwest Guilford (298), R.J. Reynolds (304) and Porter Ridge (305) — the three state qualifiers — and Page (306). Reagan (314), Southeast Guilford (320), Davie County (323), East Forsyth (324) and Grimsley (342) rounded out the team scores.
Nichols shot a 74, followed by Justin Franklin with a 75, and Harrison Frye and Mathew Benton each with 79 for the Bison, who were without two of their better players — including standout Matthew Krawczyk, whose schedule conflicted with an exam — and struggled in the soft conditions.
“You can’t really do anything about it,” said Franklin, a senior. “There’s no other way to put it. It would’ve been nice if they could’ve played, but we can’t do anything about it. The twins (Mathew and Josh Benton) came through, we did the best we could and that’s all you can do.”
For a while, Nichols, the No. 6 golfer and a sophomore, was looking like he might qualify as one of the three individuals not on a qualifying team. But when Page’s last four scores were significantly higher than its first two, that allowed Porter Ridge to hang on to third place by one shot.
In turn, that also flipped the individual standings. Page’s Mitchell Ellis (68, medalist) and Jackson Neff (71, tied for second with Northwest’s Drew Johnson) and Reagan’s Aaron Purviance (73) qualified individually, as Ellis and Neff would have qualified with their team otherwise.
So, Nichols was achingly close but nevertheless on the outside. But he and sophomores Mathew and Josh Benton, who both shot 80 or better, were huge for Central. And that bodes well in the years to come for the Bison, who last reached states in 2005, Stalnaker said.
“Kasey is the story of the day for us,” he said. “He rose to the occasion and had nerves of steel. And the Benton brothers played well. So, that’s exciting. Now, when you’re thinking: ‘Wait ‘til next year,’ you can kind of start looking forward to it. And we’ll see what we can do.”
Other area scores included Southwest Guilford’s Zach Lance (75), Glenn’s Trevor Blevins (76), Southwest’s Drew Adams (79) and Ragsdale’s David Song (80). All were playing as individuals.