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ROCKY MOUNT — Fike High freshman Jake Herring didn’t need to show for Monday’s sixth — and final — match to be proclaimed the 2018 3-A Big East Conference individual boys golf champion.
But he did show.
And like in the previous five matches, Herring paced the field with a round of 3-over-par 75. During the seven seasons of Fike coach Glenn Jones, only a Fike golfer has claimed the distinction of a medalist. Furthermore, Herring is the first freshman to capture individual supremacy.
“It made it a lot more relaxing,” Herring said of not having to be concerned about Monday’s score. “It was nice knowing I did not have to worry about anything. It was easier to have a lot of fun.”
However, Herring assured he was motivated to post the low individual round for the sixth consecutive match.
Unlike Herring, the Fike team needed to show to clinch the program’s third consecutive title. But, the Golden Demons’ appearance was merely a formality. Fike entered with an insurmountable 86-shot margin and padded its advantage with a round of 342 for its low four individuals over the par-72 Lake Belmont Golf Club layout.
Hunt finished second Monday with a 369 and maintained the runner-up spot overall, holding off league newcomer Franklinton. The Red Rams shot 380 the final match, followed by Northern Nash at 383 and Southern Nash at 386.
Fike dominated with 2,062 strokes in six matches, followed by Hunt 2,175, Franklinton at 2,229, Northern Nash at 2,347 and Southern Nash at 2,373.
Individually, Herring wound up setting the individual pace by 37 shots against seniors Christopher Clark of Hunt and Christian Crawford of Northern Nash. Individually, the five lowest of six scores are counted and chances of surpassing Herring’s total for five rounds or 90 holes were unrealistic. But as a result of playing the final round, Herring got to throw out an 80, improving his season’s total five shots.
“It was fun; I had a good time,” Herring responded to his player-of-the-year accomplishment. “My goal is to get player of the year every year. I played well at the beginning, but I couldn’t get it together at the end.”
Completing the top five were Fike senior Johnathan Hendrix at 425 and Franklinton sophomore Sam Gupton at 434.
Those five headed the 12-player all-conference elite. Grabbing the final spot on the first team was Fike sophomore Ryan Richardson at 448. Richardson’s availability in 2018 was uncertain because of receiving a liver transplant less than a year ago.
Earning spots on the second team were Hunt sophomore Garrett Johnson (449), Fike sophomore Warren Matthews (450), Franklinton’s Adam Champion (458), Franklinton’s Cameron Whitaker (459), Southern Nash senior Hunter Perry (461) and Hunt junior Adam Dermer (469).
Honorable mention was accorded Jubie Moss of Southern Nash, Alex Gilliam of Franklinton, Chance Puckett of Northern Nash, Philip Currie of Hunt and Fike senior Adam Pendergrass.
Herring was tabbed player of the year, while Fike coach Glenn Jones repeated as coach of the year.
In Monday’s round, Herring carded nines of 38-37—75 with birdies at Nos. 2,5 and 18.
Teammate Hendricks was next at 41-41—82, followed by Crawford at 38-46—84. Franklinton’s Gupton posted a 50-38—88; while the Hunt tandem of Clark and Johnson each shot 89. Franklinton’s Whitaker finished at 43-47—90.
Of Herring’s feat, Jones responded: “I’m not surprised. We don’t win our conference without him. He’s going to be special. I don’t think he truly knows his true potential.”
However, Jones senses his star freshman sets personal expectations too high.
“I wish I could get him to control his emotions a little bit better,” Jones commented. “But he’s only 14-years-old. This is a learning curve and he’s got to grow.”
Fike handily won the team championship, even though its coach expected a dogfight with archrival Hunt, the 2015 champion.
“I’m happy for them,” Jones expressed. “I thought it would be a close race between them and Hunt. We knew Jake was going to help us, and Johnathan was a big surprise.”
In regards in being selected the conference’s top coach, Jones lauded assistant coach Mike Matthews. Because of a stay in the hospital, Jones missed three matches and some two weeks of practice.
“I don’t deserve it,” Jones declared. “Mike deserves as much credit. I am just glad to have good kids playing for me. I will take a dozen Ryan Richardsons and Warren Matthews.”
Jones indicated his main challenge was cementing a six-player lineup.
“I knew I had three — then four with Ryan, who became our No. 3 and stayed solid all year,” Jones assessed. “Then Adam helped us out at the end.”
The battle Monday was for second place individually. Hunt’s Clark struggled to play bogey golf as the result of physical soreness sustained during weekend National Guard drills.
“I can’t swing,” Clark lamented in the midst of the round while grouped in the lead threesome with Herring and Crawford. “I’m hitting flat, lifeless golf balls.”
Clark hurt even more after a four-putt green.
“When you start hitting bad shots, everything else goes down with it,” he reasoned.
With Crawford playing well, Clark conceded: “I have already given second place to him.”
But too many big numbers obstructed Crawford’s path the final few holes and Clark and Crawford wound up tied for second place for the season when Crawford turned in an 84 and Clark an 89.
Fike and Hunt will be joined by Beddingfield in the Wilson County Championship at Wilson Country Club at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Then comes the regional next Monday and, hopefully, the 3-A Championship the following week.
“I’ve got to continue to hit the ball solid,” Herring noted. “I need to work on my woods and I should be able to post low scores.”
Big East final results
ROCKY MOUNT — Results from Monday’s final 3-A Big East Conference boys golf match at Belmont Lake Golf Club.
MONDAY’S TEAM SCORES
1. Fike 342
2. Hunt 369
3. Franklinton 380
4. Northern Nash 383
5. Southern Nash 386
MONDAY’S TOP INDIVIDUALS
1. Jake Herring (F) 38-37—75
2. Johnathan Hendricks (F) 41-41—82
3. Christian Crawford (NN) 38-46—84
4. Sam Gupton (Fr) 50-38—88
T5. Christopher Clark (H) 45-44—89
T5. Garrett Johnson (H) 47-42—89
7. Cameron Whitaker (Fr) 43-47—90
8. Adam Pendergrass (F) 47-45—92
9. Ryan Richardson (F) 41-42—93
OVERALL TEAM SCORES
(Includes Monday’s score and total for six matches)
1. Fike 342—2,062
2. Hunt 369—2,175
3. Franklinton 380—2,229
4. Northern Nash 383—2,347
5. Southern Nash 386—2.373
OVERALL INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
(Includes Monday’s round and total for lowest five of six matches. Top 12 proclaimed all-conference)
1. Jake Herring (F) 75—370
T2. Christopher Clark (H) 89—407
T2. Christian Crawford (NN) 84—407
4. Johnathan Hendricks (F) 82—425
5. Sam Gupton (Fr) 88—434
6. Ryan Richardson (F) 93—448
7. Garrett Johnson (H) 89—449
8. Warren Matthews (F) 96—450
9. Adam Champion (Fr) 94—458
10. Cameron Whitaker (Fr) 90—459
11. Hunter Perry (SN) 96—461
12. Adam Dermer (H) 96—469