North Augusta ended the 2023 High School season the same way they started, with a dominating performance over a great field.
However, this time instead of getting a nice trophy for winning the Red Raider Invitational at the Greenville Country Club, the Yellow Jackets each have a medal hanging around their neck as the South Carolina AAAA champions,.
If you only know the final score of the tournament played this week at the The River Golf Club in North Augusta you are missing a big part of an amazing story authored by the Yellow Jackets.
Over the last three years, North Augusta has chased AC Flora, the 16 time state champions, for the AAAA title.
Two years ago they finished second by 17 shots, last year they were the runner-up, 40 shots behind the champions,.
They never quit and led by a group of seniors, who have experienced the disappointment, this year can enjoy a 22 shot victory margin over the defending champions to earn the2023 AAAA title.
“It’s been along time coming,” said Yellow Jacket coach Travis Spears. “We had been brides-mades before and I cant tell you how happy I am for the team,” he said,
When the Yellow Jackets won the Red Raider title by 14 shots at 3-under par anyone who follows high school golf in the state was thinking the same thing,
The Yellow Jackets want another crack at Flora, but their coach wasn’t letting the team get ahead of itself, There was a lot of golf to be played before the state championship.
” My background was in competitive level rifle shooting. I’m not a swing doctor, I don’t work on their swings, I want to help them with whats between their ears, the mental aspect of the game. They all can hit great shots. We work on hitting a great shot when you need to hit a great shot,” said the coach.
And the Yellow Jackets have hit a lot of great shots during this year.
After the first round North Augusta had a 14 shot lead over Greenville and even more over Flora in third, but Spears would not let the team think their job was finished.
“There never was a time during the year when I thought we had it won. I wanted us to concentrate on what we could control and if we did we could be here at the end of the year,” said Spears.
Jackson Beggs, Matthew and Andrew Baxley, Luke Johnson and Davis Neal never got ahead of themselves according to the Yellow Jackets coach.
Neal especially had a spectacular season.
He opened the year with an amazing 8-under par 64 in the Red Raider Invitational. He reeled off seven straight birdies to run away with medalist honors .
After the first round of the state championship he was within striking distance of the leaders.
The Yellow Jacket senior entered the final round trailing, his teammate Luke Johnson and Greenville’s Tip Price for the individual lead.
Neal didn’t run off a string of birdies, but his pitch in eagle on the third hole started him on his way to take the lead away from Johnson and Price.
With an almost unbelievably large crowd of home town fans following all the North Augusta golfers, when Neal’s wedge trickled into the hole it produced a roar the more famous golf course across the river would have been proud of.
“I didn’t have anything like those seven birdies in a row, but I had some lucky things happen and the roar gave me a great felling,” said Neal.
Neal followed up the eagle with a pair of birdies to take the lead and added to it with a run of three straight birdies midway through his second nine.
A pair of uncharacteristic bogeys on his 16th and 17th hole coupled with a birdie by Price on 17 would force a playoff..
“I was honestly disappointed to be in a playoff, because I bogeyed the last two holes,” he said.
The playoff took only one hole, Neal hit his approach to within birdie range, while Price flew the 18th green and had to pitch back on to the putting surface.
Neal missed his birdie putt, but Price saw his par putt, to tie Neal, slide by the cup.
North Augusta had the team and individual title and while Neal was pleased with medalist honors it was the team win that was more important.
“The individual title was icing on the cake. We had a goal we wanted to shoot as low as possible. We are happy to be
the team champions,” said Neal.
Flora put together a 1-under par final round to climb past Greenville into second place.
The Red Raiders Hugh Faulkner earned a tie for fourth place with a two day 3-under par total,
Riverside ‘s Matthew Morgan and Connor Rose’s top-10 finishes helped the Warriors to the best state finish in a dozen years in fourth place.
The win by the Yellow Jackets was the first state title for the school since winning a state championship in 1983.
The teams 15-under par tournament score came within 4 shots of the state record for a 36 hole championship set by Gaffney (549) when the Indians won the 2018 AAAAA championship.
Scores from the SC AAAA Championship https://www.birdiefire.com/tournament/170320/
Categories: High School Golf
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