The North Augusta High School golf team knew all year long that its season wouldn't be determined by how many tournaments it won, but by whether it placed sec ond or higher in this particular one.
"That's what most people don't know about," senior David Sligh said. "You can play well all year, but two bad days in this tournament and you don't go to state."
The crucial tourney is the Region 3-AAAA championships, in which the top two teams over two days and 36 holes qualify for the state tournament. The Yellow Jackets had a great season last year only to finish third behind South Aiken and Irmo high schools in the region tournament.
That left North Augusta looking in from outside, but the Jackets didn't want to experience that misfortune two seasons in a row. Once again, the Jackets had an above-average season in 1999, but the critical region tournament came and the same obstacles stood.
There again were Irmo and South Aiken to beat. To add to the Jackets' adversity, the tournament would be played at Cold Stream Golf Club in Columbia, home course of Irmo.
But the Jackets were confident, led by seniors Kyle Bradley and David Sligh. In the recent Joe Wyatt Memorial Invitational at Woodside Plantation they were two places ahead of Irmo and three behind the Thoroughbreds.
On Monday, when it counted, Irmo was running ahead of North Augusta, and South Aiken well in front of the rest of the field. After 18 holes, North Augusta sat six shots out of second place heading into the all important final day.
Sligh's score of 75 was a Jackets best, but Bradley, who was recently selected to play in the North/South golf match, shot a disappointing 77, and things looked bleak for North Augusta.
"The golf team showed a lot of heart and character in the second round," coach Mike Snyder said. "Kyle Bradley, David Sligh and John Loftis played well to help secure the berth to the state championship. Loftis played a big role in the comeback by finishing with a strong back nine."
Loftis, who shot a 79 on day one, came from nowhere, firing a 75 for a 154 total. Sligh kept his consistency with a 74 second-round score, giving him a 149 total. And Bradley shot a team-low 73 for a 150 total.
The Jackets walked down Irmo's six-shot lead and flew five shots in front to finish four shots back of first-place South Aiken. The 11-shot swing has Snyder hopeful for the state championships at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., on Thursday.
"Not making the tournament last year was a disappointment," he said. "The finish at the region tournament gave our team a confidence boost. The team is looking forward to playing for the state championship."
The trip to Furman will just be one of many to come for Sligh, who signed with the Paladins earlier this year. And Bradley may see Furman's course also. He plans to sign with the school's Southern Conference foe, the College of Charleston.
Both seniors were named to the All-Region 3-AAAA team and will be looked upon by Snyder as the Jackets take the next step on their quests.
" We will depend on our seniors to carry the load," he said. "Hopefully we can play to our potential and compete for the top spot."