South Aiken High School's golf team is finding its range at the most opportune time of the season, and it's doing it in the worst conditions.
The Thoroughbreds captured last week's Joe Wyatt Invitational in the midst of heavy winds and slight drizzles. The hottest team in the state continues to roll a week later, this time at Palmetto Golf Club's 26th annual Southern Cross tournament.
South Aiken (226) holds a four-shot lead over North Augusta (230) after Friday's round. The Thoroughbreds, last year's champions, are looking to become the first team to earn four wins in the annual event, which boasts some of the top teams from across the state.
"I thought the conditions were real tough, but you've got to be pleased to be in the lead, regardless," South Aiken coach Donnie Holland said. "Hopefully last week's performance is carrying over a little bit. As a team we're playing the best we have all season. Somebody different is stepping up each day."
Junior Alex Hamilton was the Thoroughbreds' bread and butter Friday after shooting a 72. Hamilton trails leader Thomas Self of Emerald, who finished with the low round of 70. Last week, it was Kevin Kisner and Tommy Faulk who carried the load for South Aiken. This week, the pair struggled to collect a 79 and 80, respectively.
"I expect both those guys to come back tomorrow and play well," Holland added. "We actually may have squandered a few holes there on the back that could've padded our lead. I'm a little disappointed with some of the guys' play, but hopefully tomorrow we'll be in position where the rest of the field will have to come and catch us."
North Augusta has its eye on the Thoroughbreds after good rounds from Scott Brown (74) and Nick Bradley (78). Bradley earned one of two eagles on the day after he and Self eagled No. 10. North Augusta and South Aiken are gearing up for next week's Region 3-AAAA championship.
"We really do need to play well tomorrow to get ready for the region," said Hamilton. "I expect us to come out to play well, and hopefully the wind won't take us all over the place like today."
70-Thomas Self, Emerald
72-Matt Griffin, Easley
72-Alex Hamilton, South Aiken
72-Gavin Gillespie, Lexington
73-Charles Chapman, Central
73-Nick Hughey, Gaffney
73-Stephen Poole, Spartanburg
73-Emmett Turner, Greenwood
74-Shane Birckbichler, Travelers Rest
74-Scott Brown, North Augusta
75-Shane Burkhart, South Aiken
76-Mason McKnight, Augusta Prep
77-Blake Holcomb, Strom Thurmond
77-Ben Twilley, Midland Valley
78-Nick Bradley, North Augusta
78-Greg Benjamin, North Augusta
79-Jeff Goff, Silver Bluff
Top team finishes