The North Lincoln Knights golf team is off to a stellar start to the 2004 campaign.
The team, while young, has compiled a 13-1 record with more than half of their schedule remaining.
Knights head coach Mark Lackey believes their success stems from their familiarity with each other.
“These kids have been playing together for a long time. That is their sport, they play together a lot during the summer in golf leagues,” he said.
So is it a big surpise to Lackey or did he expect this type of success?
“Iâ€™m a little bit surprised, but I expected them to do wellâ€¦ maybe not quite 13-1 at this time though,” he said.
The catalyst behind the Knightsâ€™ impressive run is sophomore Kenny Bethea. Bethea has been match medalist in four out of the last five matches. The time he wasnâ€™t he finished second.
“Heâ€™s an exceptional golfer, hits the ball a mile. Not only that, but he has a great short game and his demeanor is always the same no matter what shot he just hit,” Lackey said.
Lackey quickly points out that Betheaâ€™s short game is also his strength.
“Heâ€™s very consistent from 100 yards in. He finds the greens in regulation, two putts and goes to the next hole,” he said.
Fellow sophomores Carson King and Reid Ketner are also key cogs in the Knightsâ€™ engine.
King played No. 6 last year on the Regional team at East Lincoln. This year heâ€™s played No. 1 and 2 for North.
“Carson has really come on and played extremely well this year. He worked on his game this summer and has come miles from last year,” Lackey said.
Lackey feels Kingâ€™s consistency makes him solid on the links.
“Heâ€™s steady and has been all year long. He hits the ball long and is able to recover from a bad shot. He and Kenny may be the two best recovery players I have,” he said.
Ketnerâ€™s strength is his ability to knock down putts.
“Reid hits the ball a long way. Heâ€™s a very good putter and is good around the greens. If he gets in trouble he has the ability to get out of it,” Lackey said.
The abundance of youth doesnâ€™t start and end with the sophomores.
Matt Wentworth and Houston Mayer, both freshmen, also make contributions to the team.
“Theyâ€™re playing and are coming along. Theyâ€™re improving every day and getting better and helping us out,” Lackey said.
A good team in any sport usually has a mixture of exuberant youth and wily veterans.
The experience comes from juniors Will Campbell and Zack Kiser.
Lackey believes itâ€™s Campbellâ€™s accuracy that stands out.
“Willâ€™s strength is his overall game. He keeps the ball in the fairway, his accuracy is sometimes uncanny. He doesnâ€™t make a lot of mistakes,” he said.
Kiserâ€™s calling card is solid wedge play.
“Zack his strength is chipping around the greens. He gets the ball close and makes some putts,” Lackey said.
The Knightsâ€™ most recent match was a victory at Fox Den Country Club in Statesville.
Team scores were: North Lincoln 155, Lincolnton 187, Shelby 190 and South Iredell 217.
Bethea was the match medalist shooting an even par 36, King shot a 38 and Ketner shot a three over 39.
“Weâ€™re playing pretty well right now, but sometimes success in golf is fleeting. These kids are unselfish. They donâ€™t mind what positions they play to them thatâ€™s just a number,” Lackey said.by John Mark Brooks