Heading into Tuesday’s second and final round of the AAA state golf championship, Camden found itself tied for third, seven strokes behind tournament-leading Chesnee’s 312 score which it posted Monday.
When David Bishop rolled home a 25-foot birdie putt on the first hole Tuesday, the margin was trimmed to six as Chesnee and second-place Bishop England had yet to take to the Camden Country Club’s first tee.
Unfortunately for the event hosts, they were unable to build on the early momentum or, piggyback on tourney medalist Wills Kelly’s 1-over par 141 to bring home the school’s first state golf title. After opening with a 319 on Monday, the Bulldogs posted a second round 327 to finish fourth with a 346 score.
Bishop England went low Tuesday, carding a tourney-best 298 for a two-day 612 as the Battling Bishops from Daniel Island won their second consecutive AAA state golf title and the school’s seventh overall in golf. Chesnee went 312-315---627 to finish second with Woodruff third with a 319-309---628 over the par-70 Donald Ross-designed layout.
“Anything can happen when you’re seven strokes out. There was definitely some hope going in to (Tuesday’s round.) We were excited about that,” said Camden High head coach and former Bulldog and USC golf captain Matt McCarley following his team’s Tuesday’s round.
“I knew that Wills (Kelly) had to shoot around par or better for us to have a shot; he did that. Unfortunately, some of the boys struggled today and, overall, it hurt us. Everybody, pretty much had to play their best for us to have caught these other teams today.”
Ironically, Camden shot eight strokes higher on Tuesday in conditions which were not as demanding as they were for Monday’s opening round of 18 holes in which winds whipped at 18 to 20 miles per hour. While there were several times which the wind had gusts of close to 10 to 12 miles per hour on Tuesday, it was nothing like Monday.
McCarley said the wind affected not only his squad, but the entire field which also had to battle Camden’s tricky greens and demanding fairways which require good ball-striking.
“Camden is a hard golf course without wind,” McCarley said. “When you throw the wind into the mix, it makes it extremely difficult, especially for these young players who aren’t very experienced. It takes its toll on them after awhile.”
Kelly, a sophomore, led Camden’s first-day charge with a 74. Senior Patrick Lindsay was next with an 80 followed by junior Robert Inabinet and sophomore Evan Younghans who carded an 82 and 83, respectively.
The game plan for Tuesday, McCarley said, was for Kelly to go low while having at least two others players score in the 70s along with an 80 or, so, mixed in. That would have kept the Dogs in the hunt.
“I knew that I would have to go low today,” Kelly said after his tournament-low round of 67 on Tuesday. “Then, we needed two scores under 77 and a usual 80 in there. Then, I thought we would have a good chance of winning.”
Lindsay followed Kelly’s winning lead with a Tuesday 83. Inabinet had an 86 while Bishop’s 89 was the final of the four scores which counted toward the team total. Meanwhile, Bishop England went shooting at pins and posted the lowest team score of the 36-hole event on Tuesday to win, virtually, going away.
Coming into the tournament, Kelly was ranked 41st in the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s list of its 13 to 18-year-old male players. Kelly is a tournament-tested player who works on his game throughout the year. McCarley said if he can get other players to follow suit, the Dogs will have a chance to better their four place finish in the coming years.
“We have three or four boys who have to play tournament golf year ‘round and have to get down to the 70s. If they get down to the 70s and help Wills, then we should have a chance next year and the year after that,” he said.
At the time of the interview, players from Bishop England, Chesnee and Woodruff were still on the course completing their rounds. McCarley said he was hoping his team could hang on to third place and, if not, hopefully finish no worse than fourth in the 16-team championship field.
For a program which, just a few years ago, struggled to field enough players to have a starting five with a player or two to fill in and add depth, McCarley said the Bulldogs could use the experience on their home course to keep the team among the best in the AAA ranks.
“It’s something to build on but whether we finish third or fourth, it’s been a good week because we had a chance to win the state championship,” he said.
“We had a chance this week and that’s all you can ask for when you are playing on any golf course going into the last day. We just didn’t quite get it done, but we should still be in good shape next year and the year after that. I have some other kids coming up and I think they have a chance to be good, too.”