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Demon golfers living up to lofty expectations

Posted: May 1, 2014 10:41 a.m.
Updated: May 2, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Having heard from even the most talent-laden teams about how a successful season has been a pleasant surprise, it is refreshing when a coach of a squad in the midst of one of its best seasons in school history says he had a feeling this would be a special campaign.
When he first assembled his Lugoff-Elgin golf team for the start of practice for the 2014 season, Demons’ head coach Mike Robinson thought this group had the potential to make some noise in the regular season and beyond. Now, with the Region 4-4A tournament beckoning next Monday at the Woodlands in Columbia, the Demons are ready to take that next step to where they want to finish.
With three seniors who each signed National Letters of Intent with a pair of schools --- Kelli Murphy (Auburn) and Jake Barker and Chandler Walters (both to Erskine) --- and underclassmen who may well follow suit next year, the Demons were loaded for bear this spring; a fact which Robinson does not mind talking about.
“I knew we were going to be good because I knew what we had coming back and how hard these kids had worked,” said Robinson who calls himself a golf ‘manager’ as opposed to a coach.
“I figured this season would just run itself  so, I turned a lot of the leadership duties to the seniors and talked to them about their practice schedules and when they wanted to practice and how they wanted to do it. I have confidence that if we don’t have practice, they will be somewhere practicing.”
 Robinson set the bar high for his players when they convened for the team’s banquet following the 2013 campaign. On that occasion, he told the group what he had figured out if the Demons were to become a player in the competitive world of 4A golf this season.
“I told them that if we wanted to be competitive and to get to where we wanted to be (in 2014), we had to cut four to five shots off what their scores were last year,” Robinson said.
The players answered the call and it seems as if a different golfer has led the way in each match or in-season tournament. While the trio of seniors has more than held their own heading into the final three weeks of the season, the Demons were being led by Trevor Johnston, a sophomore, whose 38.8 scoring average over nine holes leads the team with Murphy, a player with national playing experience, next at 38.9. Johnston also has the team’s low score with a nine-hole 33 in a win over West Florence at the Oakdale Country Club.
Junior Brandon Hill is next with a 39.7 average followed by Walters (40.1), sophomore Ty Morgan (41.1) and Barker (41.2) and junior Luke Schrader with a 43.0 stroke average. To show just how balanced they are, six different players have been the Demons’ medalist on at least two occasions this year with Johnston’s seven leading Murphy by one.
You can count Walters among those who are hardly surprised that L-E has posted a 15-4 dual match record and finished second behind Lexington and a spot ahead of defending AAA state champion A.C. Flora, a first for the Demons’ golf program, in the Anderson Brothers Bank tournament played in Florence on April 22-23.
“I think we expected it,” he said of the Demons’ record-setting season. “We thought this year would be the year for us.”
With such a talented cast come lofty goals, which Robinson was not afraid to share when it comes to his team and what it has left to accomplish this spring.
“We want to win our region; we’ve never won the region,” he said. “The next thing we want to do is to qualify for Upper State (at Willow Creek Country Club in Greer) and from Upper State, we want to go to Furman (site of the 4A state championship.)
“We really think that if we play like we’re capable of playing and play our best golf at Furman, we can win this thing.”
Every now and then, Robinson will take a peek at scores posted by other teams in various tournaments to see where his team stacks up in relation to the top squads from throughout the state. Many of the teams to beat in the Upper State and in the state, for that matter, reside in Region 4-4A.
“Blythewood has a great team. Spring Valley is good,” Robinson said of who his team must get past to bring home the region championship trophy. “The teams that have beaten us this year have shot very close to par.”
Crunching the numbers, Robinson figured that for his team to have a shot at advancing to Furman, L-E would have to shoot around 310 (for 18 holes) or below. L-E posted a score better than that figure in the first round of the Florence tournament in which they shot a 306 in a round at the Dusty Hills Country Club with a 313 the next day over the Florence Country Club.
“We can go lower. Those courses were pretty hard,” Robinson said of the two-day event in the Pee Dee. “When we get on the courses that we’re going to see (in post-season tournaments), I think we have a real good shot of shooting good numbers.”
When working with young golfers, Robinson said, the key to making a run at a state title is consistency. When the Demons have been successful, they are on the green in regulation and sinking putts. What hurts them, as is the case with any golfer, is when the ball lands away from the fairway and scrambling to try and limit the damage comes into play.
“What’s hurt our players, and they have played really, really well,” he said, “is one or two holes. There have been one or two holes that have been a bugaboo for them and we’re not able to close the deal. We’ll be talking about that the rest of the season and having that mental toughness that you need to finish up a round and fighting through bad shots when they do come.”
What the Demons have on their side is a good mix of leaders as well as players who play in tournaments in the summer and have had success in the high school dual match, tournament and postseasons. Robinson said having golfers who have had plenty thrown in their way and have succeeded makes his job much easier.
Robinson said the Demons will lean on their past experience over the course of the next three weeks. “These kids have been through it all, already,” he said. “They have done what all good golfers need to do to be good; they play all year ‘round.”
Making Robinson’s job easier, he said, is that each of his players knows what is expected of them and how to conduct themselves on and off the course.
“It runs itself,” he said of the team and the program. “I don’t have any problems, at all. “We’re very fortunate to not only have good golfers, but also to have good people. Every one of our kids knows how to behave and they behave in such a way that it is a good reflection on our school, our community and their families, as well.”

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