Barton’s Boyette named Conference Carolinas top freshman male golfer

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Standout Wilson golfer Bryson Boyette doesn’t deny that he’s goal-oriented and goals in his first season with the Barton College men’s golf team included:

— A stroke average of 75 or lower (check that one off)

— A spot in the starting lineup for every 2018 tournament (check mark, please)

— Win medalist distinction in a tournament (another check mark)

— All-conference recognition (check mark)

— Proclaimed NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year (BIG CHECK MARK!)

— To qualify either on a team or individual basis for Southeast Regional (answer likely forthcoming Thursday).

As head coach Ashley Leonard and the team expected, Boyette, the pride of Fike High and the 2017 North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A individual champion, was proclaimed the conference’s freshman of the year on Tuesday, following the completion of the conference men’s and women’s championships at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Greene County.

Boyette also landed on the all-conference elite along with junior teammates Justin Plane and Scott Pechacek. Boyette and Plane were named to the second team, while Pechacek drew third-team acclaim. Lane was a repeater.

Also, Leonard, in her fifth season, was voted the conference’s coach of the year in the men’s division.

“It was awesome,” Boyette expressed. “(Freshman of the year) was one of my goals, and to check it off the list felt pretty good.”

Boyette wound up with a stroke average of 74 per 18-hole round, second best on the team. The 18-year-old seized the individual championship in the Barton Intercollegiate and launched his career in rousing fashion, taking second in the South/Southeast Regional Preview that was won by the Bulldogs.

Boyette posted two other top-15 finishes and played a substantial portion of the season in Barton’s No. 1 spot. His career-low round of 4-under-par 68 tied for the team low in 2018.

“I knew the competition would be a lot tougher from top to bottom,” Boyette said of adjusting to the college game. “It was a lot more competitive. The courses were a lot longer. But, it’s golf and I had to just go out, play my  game and see what happens.

“I felt pretty good about how I finished. I finished in the top 25 in about every tournament. but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. I scored OK, but I have to get a lot longer. But to be a freshman and come out and play every tournament, it was a pretty successful year.”

Leonard agreed, noting: “When you see the nominations and who’s nominated, he had a winning record on just about everybody — he was tied 1-1 with one player. He was the only freshman to have a win. His body of work spoke for itself all year.”

Leonard pointed out that Boyette entered the tournament with a 73.92 stroke average and added: “I’m sure he feels like he could have done better. That’s the beauty of that kid; he’s never satisfied. He is always working to get better.”

Plane and Pechacek capped the 54-hole confernence tournament by deadlocking for sixth place and earning spots on the all-championship team — which Boyette missed by a shot.

Plane, from Whitby, Canada, carded two runner-up finishes and a third-place showing. His outings included an additional top-10 and a total of six top-15s in 10 regular-season events. The left-handed junior possessed the Bulldogs’ low stroke average of just under 74.

From Cary, Pechacek managed a pair of top-5 finishes and one other top-10 result. He placed outside the top 20 in just three of his 10 tournaments.

The selection of the trio to the all-conference team continued an outstanding tradition for the program. At least one Barton player has been tabbed in every season since Barton became an NCAA Division II member in 1995.

“I am obviously proud of them,” Leonard commented. “All three are hard workers. I felt like Justin and Bryson would be named, but Scott was the wild card. But Scott had a really good spring and earned his way onto the third team. He deserves it.”

Leonard, as coach of the year, directed the Buldogs to top-three finishes in five tournaments. Her Bulldogs captured a major victory in the South/Southeast Regional Preview at Rock Barn. Her individuals finished in the top-5 on eight occasions and in the top-10 a total of 12 times.

Leonard, who played professionally from 2005-08, being hailed coach of the year and Boyette freshman of the year marked the first time Barton has owned both awards since 2010-11 — when Dermot McElhennon was honored as freshman of the year and John Hackney as coach of the year.

“I was really surprised,” Leonard responded to her recognition. “The conference has a lot of good coaches. At the end of the day, it reflects on what the guys have done. That makes me look better and it’s more their award than it is mine. But it’s nice and an honor to be recognized by your peers and colleagues.

Leonard said she expected the 2017-18 team would be talented enough to have a regional opportunity and rank in NCAA Division’s II top 25. She suspects the Bulldogs may come up a tournament short since finishing second in the conference was not good enough to merit a regional invite last season.

Of her role, Leonard explained: “The biggest thing I like to do is improve golf maturity — let’s make good decisions when we play a round of golf.”

However, the regional uncertainty still haunts the Bulldogs — especially Boyette.

Boyette was all but a lock to receive an individual berth until, in the second round of the University of Mount Olive tournament earlier this month, he was forced to withdraw because of sickness. With seven holes remaining, Boyette stood 2-under-par when forced to leave.

He played the final round, but his inability to complete the second round constituted his losing to every other player in the field. Consequently, his regional ranking dropped from No. 14 to No. 48.

“I hated it,” Boyette addressed the situation. “That definitely cost me a lot. It was kind of a killer. Now, the regional is kind of up in the air.”

But the Bulldogs do not have to be concerned about Boyette’s availability for three more seasons.

“I love Barton,” he commented. “The guys are great and the team is getting better. I know for a fact that I made the right choice.”