ROARING GAP — In golf team competition, it is often a case of which team lost it, not which team won it.
That was not the case Thursday atop the Eastern Continental Divide at Roaring Gap Club.
Elkin, simply put, won it.
With Alleghany almost comfortably in first place in the conference standings at the start of play Thursday, Elkin led Starmount by nine strokes for the second — and last — conference berth to the regionals May 5 at Cedarbrook Country Club.
The Buckin’ Elks watched eight of those strokes vanish as the Rams, led by Brady Hunter’s 35, posted a team score of 165 of the front nine. Elkin, with 40s by Harrison Hall and Josiah Blevins, posted a 173.
On the back nine Starmount, with Nick Gunnell shooting a 38 and Austin Holcomb a 39, posted a 164. A great score for sure, but Elkin was up to the task. The Buckin’ Elks, led by Hall at 38, had a complete team effort to post a 162 and hold on to the second conference regional berth by three strokes.
It came down to the last two holes. Every shot, every putt mattered.
Blevins and Jacob Christian both came in with 41s and Noah Carter shot a 42 to keep the Rams at bay.
There were distractions for sure. The scenery — bolstered by a blue sky, mountain breezes, and temperatures in the 60s — was one. The demanding course, with quick greens, was another. And in the case of Elkin and Starmount, there was the pressure of earning the second conference berth.
“We had to win it on the back nine holes,” Elkin Coach Zim Zimmerman said. “The guys did a good job staying on task, keeping their minds on the present. It gave them a chance to be low on the back.”
“I’m proud of the kids,” Starmount Coach Jon Symons said. “We fought hard. We played well today.”
Zimmerman said his team knew how close it was and what was at stake. “They all knew it,” he said. “I didn’t hardly mention it. We play one match at a time; one shot at a time.”
Zimmerman said Blevins “came out and played well the last four, five, six matches. He showed a lot of maturity. My other seniors stepped up the last nine holes, too.”
And then there was Hall, the freshman, who posted the 38 on the back nine. “He did a great job,” Zimmerman said.
“Their attitude was great,” Zimmerman added. “They felt like they were ready.
“Starmount played great. They had a lot of great players.”
“You have your opportunities throughout the season,” Symons said. “You play a total of nine 11-hole matches. We dug ourselves a nine-stroke hole.
“Everyone of us can look back and see the hits and misses.”
Of deciding the conference berth on such a demanding course, Symons said, “It’s a great course; a beautiful course. This is a golfer’s dream to come to this place and know what’s on the line. It challenges you; short game; putting. It’s a good test. A fair test.
“I think we are an unbelievably lucky conference to be able to do this. I always try to impress upon them this will be one of the top five courses you will ever play; not in your high school career, but ever.
Chandler Metz of Wilkes Central was name conference player of the year. Alleghany’s Travis Sturgill was named coach of the year.
Team scores — 1st 9: Starmount 165, Alleghany 167, Wilkes Central 172, Elkin 173, Ashe County 176, East Wilkes 180, West Wilkes 199, North Wilkes 199. 2nd 9: Elkin 162, Alleghany 162, Starmount 164, Ashe County 172, East Wilkes 175, Wilkes Central 177, West Wilkes 192, North Wilkes 209.
1st 9 — Elkin: Harrison Hall 40, Josiah Blevins 40, Jacob Christian 46, Noah Carter 47. Starmount: Brady Hunter 35, Nick Gunnell 40, Austin Holcomb 44, Landon Doss 46, Mason Hodges 46, Hunter Johnson 46. East Wilkes: Zach Nixon 41, Logan Combs 43, Benjamim Prevette 47, Dustin Holloway 49.
2nd 9 — E: Hall 38, Blevins 41, Christian 41, Carter 42. S: Gunnell 38, Holcomb 39, Hunter 42, Hodges 45, Johnson 45. EW: Nixon 39, Holloway 43, Combs 46, Prevette 47.
Individuals — 1st 9: 1. Hunter 35; 2. (tie) Chandler Metz (WC), Andrew Cheek (WW) 38.
Individuals — 2nd 9: 1. (tie) Hall, Gunnell, Andrew Cheek (WW) Hunter Todd (Al).
Conference totals for the 2014 season: 1. Alleghany 1677*; 2. Elkin 1690*; 3. Starmount 1693; Wilkes Central 1728**; Ashe County 1828**; East Wilkes 1838; West Wilkes 2039; North Wilkes 2108.
* will go to 1A regionals at Cedarbrook C.C. May 5
** will go to 2A regionals at Salisbury C.C. May 6
Individuals who qualified for regionals (top four not on a team going to regionals): Gunnell, Hunter, Holloway, Nixon. Cheek, Dillon Brown (NW), Kiki Hernandez (WW), Dillon Shumate (NW).
Local All-Conference Individuals: Brandy Hunter, Starmount; Nick Gunnell, Starmount; Harrison Hall, Elkin; Josiah Blevins, Elkin; Zach Nixon, East Wilkes; Dustin Holloway, East Wilkes. Honorable mention: Austin Holcomb, Starmount; Cory Anderson, Elkin.
Note: Starmount actually trailed Elkin by nine strokes going into the conference tournament, not seven strokes as reported in Wednesday’s The Tribune.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @elkinareasports.