It might be Hornets' time in Southern Cross

Hampton Jones was a member of the Aiken High team that finished second in last year's Southern Cross tournament. The Hornets are one of the favorites after winning their region.

Aiken golf coach Vic Lancaster is hoping his team's momentum continues through this weekend.


After winning the Region 5-AAAA tournament earlier this week by two shots over North Augusta, the Hornets are looking to make history.

Aiken, which finished second in last year's Southern Cross tournament, is vying for its first victory in the prestigious high school event. The 36th annual Southern Cross begins at 7:30 a.m. today at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken. The final round will start at 7:30 Saturday.

"We feel confident. We feel like we can compete," said Lancaster, whose team led after the first round of the 2009 Southern Cross before losing by six shots to Dutch Fork.

"It'd be super to win here in our home tournament. It's the best teams in the state. It's an elite field. They only invite the best."

The event includes 23 teams, including two-time defending champion Dutch Fork, and seven individuals. Sam Odi, of Augusta Prep, is the lone participant from Georgia in the field.

Each team will have four players, with the lowest three scores counting in each of the two rounds.

Aiken, North Augusta and South Aiken each are trying to break a long streak. No local squad has won the Southern Cross the past seven years. The Thoroughbreds are a five-time winner of the event, their last win coming in 2002. The Yellow Jackets, led by region champion Matt NeSmith, have won this tournament twice (1975, 1983).

Past winners of the Southern Cross include current PGA Tour players Jonathan Byrd and Charles Warren, Nationwide Tour player Kevin Kisner and 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up and 2010 Masters Tournament participant Ben Martin.

Aiken is expected to be one of the main contenders for the Southern Cross because of the return of the team's No. 1 golfer, Nathan Guy. The Hornet senior, still recovering from a bout with mononucleosis, has played in just four region matches. Guy, who finished in the top 10 in last year's Southern Cross, shot 71-79 in the region tournament.

"He hasn't gotten his complete strength back," Lancaster said. "But he's got his golf game back."

With Guy in the lineup, along with juniors Davis Whittle, Peter Marra and Andrew Deal, Aiken carded rounds of 304-308 at Houndslake Country Club to hold off North Augusta for the Region 5-AAAA title. Dutch Fork finished 13 shots back in third.

Aiken now has its sights on the Southern Cross before playing in the state championship, May 10-11, in Greenville, S.C. Guy and Whittle played in the Southern Cross last year, and that experience could pay off.

"We'll be disappointed if we don't compete this weekend," Lancaster said.