The North Lincoln Knightsâ€™ golf team had two goals in mind entering this season.
Goal one was to repeat as Southern Foothillsâ€™ champions. Goal two was to win a state 1A championship.
This week theyâ€™ve inched closer to achieving both, beating Hendersonville by four strokes to earn their second-consecutive conference title.
After two-of-three matches, the Knights held a commanding 21-stroke advantage.
â€œWhen you get a cushion like that itâ€™s comfortable, but you donâ€™t get leads like that unless you have players,â€ North Lincoln head coach Mark Lackey said.
North Lincoln, 30-3 on the season, went 3-0 versus the conference field this season. Lackey believed their repeating stemmed from his playersâ€™ determination to do so.
â€œThe kids have been wanting to do it all year long. That was one of their goals was to repeat,â€ he said.
The six players who will participate at the North Carolina High School 1A West Golf Regional are: Kenny Bethea, Carson King, Reid Ketner, Will Campbell, Zack Kiser and Matthew Wentworth.
Lackey feels each one of them is vital to the teamâ€™s success.
â€œItâ€™s been somebody different every week. If somebody stumbled another person stepped in their place and pulled the score,â€ he said.
Lackeyâ€™s claim is evidenced in the fact three different players were named match medalist at different points this season.
Campbell bested the field five times. Bethea was a match medalist four times. Kiser was match medalist once.
Lackey believes his teamâ€™s success directly stems from their work ethic.
â€œTheyâ€™re hard workers. They enjoy the game, they enjoy practice. They work outside of practice,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™re kids who know how to fight their way around the golf course.â€
Last season, the Knights lost to eventual 1A state champion Jordan Matthews at the West Regional.
This year they have bigger goals in mind.
â€œFor us to repeat is great as a conference champion, but now is when the season really starts. That goal is accomplished and now weâ€™re on step two (winning the state championship),â€ Lackey said.
North Lincoln will need to finish in the top three at the regional to make it to the 1A State Championship. The sense of urgency has definitely not been lost.
â€œNow is the time that you have to peak. You donâ€™t sit back on the couch and know itâ€™s going to come to you,â€ Lackey said.â€ You work on that short game, putting, striking the golf ball. There is no tomorrow; itâ€™s a one-shot deal.â€
This yearâ€™s regional action will take place at Sapona Country Club in Lexington on Monday.
Lackey feels one of the biggest assets of the team, if not the biggest, is their ability to overcome adversity.
â€œA bad shot doesnâ€™t get them down. A bad hole doesnâ€™t seem to bother them because they have that mental toughness where they can bounce back from that,â€ he said.
Regardless how things turn out at the regional, Lackey is proud of what his team has already accomplished in meeting goal number one.
â€œIâ€™m proud of the kids and everything theyâ€™ve done and the dedication theyâ€™ve shown to accomplish their goal,â€ he said.
North Lincoln went 41-9 last season.
by John Mark Brooks