Coach Mark Whitman and members of the Triton girls golf team talk goals and strategies ahead of Tuesday's 3A East regional.
ERWIN — As Triton coach Mark Whitman and three of his conference championship girls golfers worked the greens and driving range at Chicora Golf Course last Wednesday, he remembered the genesis of their current journey.
“We started a whole lot earlier than everybody else did ... We got out here and banged the ball around a bit,” Whitman said, noting the first day of practice on Aug. 1.
“It was just one of those things – it just clicked ... The first five matches we peaked early and locked it (conference title) up, so that was a positive.”
Whitman’s bunch clinched the newly created All American Conference title on that same course during a league event on Sept. 27, then was officially crowned as the first-ever AAC champs after placing first during the season finale at Kings Grant Golf & Country Club on Oct. 11.
Triton senior Neva Chance claimed league player of the year honors, shooting a 13-over par 85 on the 18-hole course. Fellow upperclassman Tristan Ennis also earned all-conference honors, placing sixth in the season standings.
Meanwhile, freshman teammate Sueanna Bass finished second only to Chance in the individual standings, and credits her veteran leaders for such a successful initiation into prep golf.
“I can tell most stuff doesn’t get to them as much ... if they had a bad shot they’d just move on and that was something I tried to get used to,” Bass said.
As all three prepare to represent the Lady Hawks as a team at Tuesday’s 3A East Women’s Golf Regional, Whitman spoke to the importance of Bass as a complement to his returners.
“She’s talented and the bottom line is, she can play golf,” he said.
“It’s good, on a team, to have friendly competition because it makes each other better. She was a very instrumental part of us winning the conference championship.”
Bass first started playing golf in fifth grade and starred for Coats-Erwin Middle the past three years.
She boasted a nine-hole average in the mid-50s then, but acknowledged that better efforts were required at the next level.
“I knew high school golf would be more challenging,” Bass said. “High school has more experienced people, so I knew I needed to be more serious about it going in.”
As the first-year player sets to cash in on her preseason aspiration of making regionals, Ennis is making a second trip to the tournament.
The three-sport athlete credits the return to a normal athletics calendar year, that doesn’t have her splitting time between softball like this past spring, for a much-improved scoring average.
“I got to practice more, so that helped out a lot more – being able to work on golf outside of just matches,” Ennis said.
She added that helping Chance take a leadership role – coordinating team practices when Whitman couldn’t attend, and teaching mechanics – helped achieve team success.
“Tristan ... put us over the top. I knew (Chance and Bass) would handle their business. She just had to handle hers,” Whitman said.
Triton won first place in all but two league matches this season, including the finale at Kings Grant in which the Lady Hawks’ total score of 283 topped the field by double digits.
As the trio preps to take the two-hour drive south to Lockwood Folly Country Club, the veteran coach is hoping they become the second to qualify for states as a team under his tenure.
“That’s my goal for them. Hopefully, we qualify as a team. If not, hopefully, they can get in based off their scores,” he said.
“All three of them know what they need to fix and what they need to get better at,” he continued.
“Just go down there and have a good time. Have fun. Play their game. Don’t play who you’re playing against, play the course.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 230-2040.