Ben Griffin wins second state golf title
East Chapel Hill junior Ben Griffin rocked the field Tuesday at Pinehurst No. 8 with a 5-under-par 67 for a two-day total of 9-under 135 to win the state individual 4-A golf championship for the second time in three seasons.
Griffin, who has verbally committed to play golf at UNC Chapel Hill beginning in the fall of 2014, birdied five straight holes coming down the homestretch Tuesday to bury an 84-player field that included 2012 state champion Stephen Saleeby of Broughton by nine strokes.
A bogey on the 18th and final hole of the 36-hole, two-day championship cost him a stroke against par, but it had more to do with his big lead than a lack of concentration.
“Ben got real conservative on that last hole — there was water on the left side,” ECH coach Bobby Neville said. “Other that that, he was just unbelievable.”
Griffin’s 36-hole total of 135 was the best 36-hole score ever in a 4-A tournament and the third lowest total ever in an NCHSAA championship since World War II. Runners-up Trey Guy of Fayetteville Terry Sanford and Saleeby finished at even-par 144, Guy eventually winning a playoff to finish second.
Southern Pines Pinecrest and Myers Park finished in a deadlock for the team championship at 591 and had to go to a playoff as well, Pinecrest winning it.
Griffin’s 135 total topped the 5-under 137 he shot to win at Pinehurst No. 6 in 2011 as a freshman. In that one, Griffin tied Andrew Decker of Greenville Rose and won the title in a two-hole sudden-death playoff.
Griffin finished 10th last season at 77-71—148, 4-over, eight strokes back of then-freshman Saleeby of Broughton. Last year’s tournament was also played at Pinehurst No. 8, the newest course (opened in 1996) at the famed Pinehurst Resort.
“I could tell about three weeks ago that Ben was peaking, really playing well,” Neville said. “He’d played the top junior tournament in the country in Augusta (Ga.) and drove back and played Croasdaile (Country Club) and was really hitting it well. Then last week, he won the (4-A Mideast) regionals (at Raleigh Country Club) and he played better than anyone. He was hitting the ball really well and putting well.
“That was the story down here (Pinehurst), too. He had two three-putt greens Monday at 9 and 18 and still shot a 68. He wasn’t making anything (putts) really long, but he was putting well and hitting solid irons.”
Neville said Griffin’s play was especially impressive because of the competitive nature of the field and the No. 8 course. “This course is a lot harder than No. 6,” Neville said, referring to Griffin’s 2011 win. “It’s a really tough course.”
In the 4-A team championship, Riverside, the lone area representative, finished sixth at 312-311—623, 47-over-par and 32 strokes behind the team leaders. Carson Hunt’s 8-over 152 led Riverside.
In the 2-A championships at Longleaf Golf and Country Club in Southern Pines, Carrboro’s Kaleb Lester fired the day’s best score at even-par 71 and finished second in the individual race behind Newton-Conover’s Alex Hefner.
Hefner shot even-par 142 for the 36-hole tournament, beating Lester’s 73-71—144 by two strokes.
In the team competition, Carrboro was ninth at 331-328—659. Newton-Conover was first at 611.
In the 1-A championship at Chapel Hill Country Club, McKenzie Barringer of Voyager Academy finished third at 151, eight strokes back of champion Tanner Owens of Kernersville Bishop McGuinness and two strokes back of runner-up Dylan Kennedy of West Montgomery.
Defending team champion McGuinness repeated with a 305-306—611. The N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the lone area qualifying team in the field, finished seventh at 368-359—727.
NOTES — No area teams or individuals qualified for the 3-A championship at Foxfire Village.