DOBSON — Despite leaving its top two golfers at home and using a lineup strictly comprised of freshmen, Surry Community College’s golf team finished fourth Tuesday in a two-day golf tournament at the Neuse Golf Club in Clayton.
The Knights recorded scores of 328 on Monday and 327 on Tuesday to finish with a final tally of 655 for the two-day tourney hosted by Johnston Community College. Nick Gunnell, a freshman from Starmount, led the way both days for Surry, carding scores of 74 Monday and 77 on Tuesday on the 7,011-yard, par 72 golf course. Gunnell was tied for second place after day one out of 33 golfers before finishing fourth overall for the tournament.
“That’s not too bad. I was really pleased with him,” Surry golf coach Tom Pendergraft said. “Nick is a kid from Starmount, a freshman and a southpaw I am looking for big things from this year. I think he will fit in well with us.”
Surry freshman Zack Nixon finished 17th overall, firing rounds of 81 on Monday and 84 Tuesday for a two-day total of 165. SCC frosh Wesley Brown placed 19th overall with rounds of 84 and 82 for a total of 166, while Dustin Holloway was 24th with a two-day score of 173 and teammate Brady Hunter was 25th with a tournament score of 174.
“Two of my best players had issues with school work and I felt they needed to stay back and do their work, so all the players I carried were freshmen. We didn’t do as well as I would have liked to do, but I found some areas maybe I could squeeze some strokes,” Pendergraft said with an eye toward the rest of the season.
Ironically, the one freshman Pendergraft decided to enter the tournament as an individual ended up with the team’s second-best score both days. North Surry freshman Jeb Whitaker placed 12th overall as he fired an 82 on Monday and a 79 Tuesday for a total of 161.
“Lo and behold he shot better than three of the other players for the team score. If I had used him in the team position I would have dropped 15 strokes in my score,” Pendergraft said. “I have already figured out 13 strokes I said I could squeeze out by switching him to one of my positions, and then once we go as a full team with all the players I feel comfortable with I think we can cut this thing back down. We have to go to 300 to be competitive. I think with the two players we didn’t carry we may be on track of having a good season. The scores don’t reflect in this event what I know we are capable of doing.”
Sandhills Community College won the event with a team score of 619. Surry finished five strokes away from placing third as a team, but their score of 655 was four strokes behind Central Carolina CC. Pendergraft is excited to see what Whitaker can bring to the team going forward.
“I used him as an individual because he had to miss several practices because of his class schedule. He hadn’t had a lot of practice time with us,” Pendergraft said. “But not knowing where he would finish I took him to see where he would fit it and he fit in quite well. He’s just a great young kid. After the match was over, I spoke with him and told him I was really impressed with his performance. He has shown me he has the ability, and my confidence will be higher in using him extensively when he is available.”
Pendergraft said the Neuse is a beautiful golf course, but at 7,000 yards, it is 800 or 900 yards more than what freshmen are used to from high school courses. Still, he was excited with how they responded in a tough situation.
“All of them maintained a great attitude and wanted to do well, so I was pleased with how they approached it,” Pendergraft said. “They didn’t have a give-up attitude, which speaks highly of our kids.”
The Knights will host the Surry Community College Fall Invitational on Sat., Oct. 10 at Cross Creek Country Club. The event starts at 10 a.m. and will most likely feature five to six college golf teams.