Prep Golf: 3A Midwest Regional
STATESVILLE — Carson senior Andrew Purcell got to eat breakfast at IHOP, but he was pretty sure Monday’s positives would end there.
Purcell hoped to play in the 3A Midwest Regional golf tournament at Statesville Country Club as an individual, but the weather outlook was bleak, to say the least.
“It was still pouring the whole time we ate,” Purcell said. “And as we kept driving to Statesville, it just kept pouring.”
The weather would clear and Purcell would clear a long-time hurdle. He shot 75 on a day when SCC played extra-long and qualified for the 3A state tournament to be held at Foxfire Golf and Country Club on May 13-14. He’ll be the first Cougar in the state event.
“That’s why I can’t wait to go back to school,” Purcell said with a laugh. “Principal (Kelly) Withers and a lot of people were cheering for me pretty hard.”
Purcell will have a buddy to play a practice round with at Pinehurst’s Foxfire next Sunday. That would be South Rowan’s 15-year-old phenom Davis Richards. Richards tied for the best score in the regional with a 73. Charlotte Catholic’s Will Kloiber won a playoff with teammate Keegan Hoff and Richards for medalist honors.
Richards was in a different mental place than Purcell because South had qualified to play in the regional as a team.
“This was a huge year for South golf, and a lot of our guys got bitten by the golf bug,” Richards said. “So the biggest goal for me today was I wanted my team to make states. I wanted to shoot a great score, and then have all my teammates fall in behind me. So, while I’m excited to qualify, I would’ve been thrilled if all my teammates were going with me.”
Golfers were dressed to combat cold and rain when they teed off at 10 a.m., but the weather swung drastically.
“Six holes in, it was getting hot, and it was humid,” Purcell said.
The soaked course swallowed drives. Purcell, playing in a threesome that included South’s Hunter Chapman, mashed some 250-yarders, but they got zero roll. Holes that are usually a driver and an 8-iron for Purcell became a driver and a 7-iron.
“But with the course as soft as it was, we also had one advantage,” Purcell said. “You could fire right at the pins. The ball was gonna stop.”
Richards was playing in a stout threesome with Concord’s Walker Cress and Parkwood’s Ryan McManus.
“I was prepared for really bad conditions with all the rain, but the greens were actually fine,” Richards said. “The course did play longer, but I just kept telling myself everybody else was playing the same golf course.”
Purcell needed time to get settled. He bogeyed the first two holes.
“I just had to calm down and remind myself I didn’t start very well when I shot 69 in the NPC tournament,” Purcell said. “I missed some 10-foot putts, but overall I started playing pretty well.”
He made the turn at 2-over and figured he’d reach his state-tournament goal if he could stay even on the back nine. He birdied No. 11, ran off three pars, then birdied No. 15 to climb to even-par for his round.
But then he had a shaky finish — double-bogey, bogey — to card his 75.
“On 17, I used too much club, hit over the green and into some water and then hit a bad chip for the double,” Purcell said. “Then on 18, I got a little nervous because so many people were watching. I knew if I parred that hole I’d make it for sure and if I didn’t make par it would still be up in the air, and I missed a 6-foot putt.”
He still qualified, avoiding a nerve-wracking playoff by a single stroke.
Richards’ day was less volatile. He birdied two par-5s on the front side, the first by getting up and down, the second by holing a chip. He was rolling at 2-under after six holes. He suffered a double-bogey hiccup that brought him back to the field, but then he was remarkably consistent. He parred every hole on the back nine.
South coach Josh Vinson has been around a while and doesn’t recall any Raider shining the way Richards did on Monday.
“I just played solid golf,” Richards said modestly.
NOTES: South’s Evan Neas shot 77. ... East Rowan’s Logan Shuping shot 79, as did West’s Rowan’s Jake Kennedy. West just missed qualifying as a team for the state event. The team qualifiers were Charlotte Catholic, Marvin Ridge and Weddington. Weddington tied with West Rowan and Concord for third place but prevailed in the tiebreaker (the fifth-best score). Besides the three teams, the top three individuals not on one of those qualifying teams makes the state event. That trio is Purcell, Richards and Parkwood’s McManus, who shot 76 and won a playoff with Concord’s Cress. ... Medalist Kloiber beat Richards on the third extra hole with a par. ... The 2A Midwest Regional, which includes Salisbury, was postponed until Thursday.