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Bill Boles Jr. became a source of tremendous pride for the Wilson golf community when he won the prestigious North Carolina Amateur in 1995.
Along the way, the Wilson dentist has captured 17 Men’s Championships at Wilson Country Club and has arguably become Wilson’s most celebrated golfer.
Boles has competed in some of golf’s premier events, including the U.S. Amateur and the Senior British Open. He’s now 70 years old, just as passionate as ever about the sport and one of the biggest promoters and fans of the Wilson Cup, Wilson’s popular modified version of the Ryder Cup.
Boles reminds the Cup is Kent Williams’ brainchild and the competition would not have endured 25 years if not for the efforts of its founder.
WAS A BIG DEAL
“I really enjoy the competition and everything about it,” Boles said. “It has been a lot of fun.”
Boles wasn’t certain he could go along with the perception of the Wilson Cup as a “big deal” but noted: “After I played in the first one, it was a big deal!”
Boles, not tall in stature, played mighty big in the 25th Wilson Cup at Wilson Country Club and Wedgewood Public Golf Course over the weekend. As Seniors (ages 55 and up) contestants, Boles and Coalter Paxton III were the first to step onto the No. 1 tee each round in Wilson Country Club’s dominating march to a ninth championship.
In four matches, Boles put on a show, recording 14 birdies and an eagle on the par-5, No. 14 layout at Wedgewood in Sunday’s championship match.
In the nine-hole, best-ball segment the opening match, seven holes were contested and Boles birdied five in succession. He reigned 5 and 3 in his championship match and, through 17 holes, piled up five birdies and the eagle.
Furthermore, in the interest of exercise, Boles walked about every layout. Only Happy Valley Country Club’s Scott Irby was an older participant, by a few months, than Boles.
“I am very fortunate to be out here still playing with these boys,” Boles declared. “It’s a lot of fun to see this event continuing. I played as good as I can play.
“I have struggled all my life with my putter. It’s all mental, but I managed to stay calm enough. I didn’t putt great, but I putted average.”
Boles reasons the Wilson Cup’s lasting power sends a message.
“That is evident, in itself, that it’s a meaningful event for them to have — and they enjoy it. It serves the golfing community with a useful purpose. If Kent Williams cares enough about it, I care. I think he cares enough to come up with another way to make it work again next year.”
WCC’s Kyle Norville certainly hopes a 2019 Wilson Cup is staged. Norville and teammate Scott deKeyzer starred in their debuts. A buzz stirred about the tremendous distance of shots from Norville, a left-hander who played collegiate baseball at Barton College.
“I worked four years (at WCC) and couldn’t play in this,” Norville explained. “This is the first year I was actually able to play. I was excited and fortunate to play well for the most part. Matt (Figg) and I played together and it worked out well for us.”
Norville pointed out he’s no stranger to tournament golf.
“This was fun, intense, competitive but friendly,” he described. “This was something totally different.”
In winning for the second time in three years, WCC presented head professional Josh Price his first victory in two tries.
At the end of four matches in two days, WCC’s youth and ball-striking distance took a championship toll on three opponents. Wedgewood and Willow Springs realize their teams have to get younger.
However, Price downplayed WCC’s status as the youngest squad overall, noting: “Course set-up varied and it’s difficult to say it was one thing or another.
“Our perseverance really stood out more than anything else for me. And it’s certainly a plus that we came out victorious.”
The lineup for the second straight year included Coalter Paxton III and Coalter Paxton IV, WCC’s first father-son combination.
WCC is now just one victory shy of deadlocking Willow Springs for the most Wilson Cup championships (10).
Wedgewood, the decided underdog for many years, served notice it’s not returning to that status.
Head professional Brady Pinner’s squad has earned a spot in the championship for the last four years, prevailing in 2017.
Critical in Sunday’s championship match was WCC building a 3 1/2-1/2 margin after four of the 10 head-to-head encounters.
“We started off slow and it took a little out of us,” admitted Ryan Pittman, a member of the championship 2017 lineup. “We got some points back. We were hoping playing our home course would help us keep it close. We just wanted to get into the finals.”
After all, Wedgewood was humbled 8-2 by WCC in the opening round-robin match at Wilson Country Club on Saturday.
“We knew they were going to be there (in the final),” Pittman remarked, “but we went down with a fight. We have a really good core group and we’ll be back next year.”
Added Wedgewood newcomer Mitch Hayes about his experience: “It’s an honor; it’s great!”
Count on the Wilson Cup returning in 2019, but changes are coming.
With Happy Valley Country Club closed, will there be only three teams or will be the Happy Valley connection be perpetuated? Will an outside team be invited to keep the field at four teams and the Wilson Cup, after 25 splendid years, no longer be the Wilson Cup?
Look for the Seniors (ages 55-over) rules to be relaxed. If two lineup slots remain for seniors on each team, substitutes will likely be permitted. More than one senior, this past weekend, complained that the possible grind of four rounds of golf and as many as 72 holes in two days is simply too demanding physically.
Furthermore, all teams — except WCC — had Senior-eligible players situated in under-55 slots. Happy Valley featured a 62-year-old rookie in Charles Matthews.
A former golf professional and a tournament veteran, Matthews was somewhat fascinated by the experience.
“It just wasn’t you out there,” he said. “All of a sudden, you have a partner and a team. Wow! There’s pressure and all sorts of stuff! You’ve got a different situation.”
One that Matthews yearns to repeat.