Well played, Bryson!

Boyette brings 3-A state title back to Fike

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Finally, a display of emotion!

A modest fist pump from the state champions will suffice.

Prompting the gesture, certainly not flashy, from Fike High senior Bryson Boyette was rolling in a six-foot birdie putt on the No. 18 green to clinch the individual championship of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A boys golf tournament over the par 36-36—72, 6,651-yard Red Fox Course at Foxfire Village and Resort on Tuesday afternoon.

The putt after what Boyette termed the best 6-iron shot of his career settled a tense duel between Boyette, first-round leader Parker Chavis, a senior from South Rowan and senior Daulton Mauldin of Lee County — all playing in the same threesome and finishing with the rarest of feats in occupying the top three individual spots.

Boyette, one shot out and in a three-way deadlock for second after Monday’s opening round, fired rounds of 73-70 for a 1-under-par 143 total to prevail by two shots. Chavis, with a 72-73—145, and Mauldin, with a 73-72—145, deadlocked for second.

The three came to the No. 18 tee with Boyette and Mauldin leading Chavis by a mere stroke. And Boyette pointed out he was not aware of how individuals in the few groups behind him were playing and emphasized his approach to his birdie putt was: “I’ve got to make this.”

The putt dropped and then came quick hugs with Fike coach Glenn Jones, his father, Lenny Boyette, and other family members.

The smile was steady, but Boyette, the East Regional king and three-time Big East Conference Player of the Year, remained the picture of composure in just his second state appearance.

“Words can’t describe it,” he carefully commented. “This is just icing on the cake. I had a good year. I just wanted to play golf, have fun and see what I could do. To come out the champion is hard to describe.”

Only Boyette, who has signed with Barton College, posted a two-round score below par 144 in the 84-player field and his final-round, 2-under 70 deadlocked for the championship’s low individual round with two others.

The 17-year-old emerged Fike’s first state high school champion since John-Tyler Griffin seized the 3-A crown in 2004.

Sending Boyette a congratulatory text a few minutes after Boyette came off the course was Griffin, who now plays professionally.

“I’m in good company,”exclaimed the beaming Boyette, who was ushered through the round of some 412 hours that began in rain by his coach, father, mother, Melody Castelloe; grandmothers Trudy Williams and Sheila Dreps and staunch fan Kevin Joyner.

Marvin Ridge rallied to the team championship with a 315-300—615 total for two rounds. Burlington Williams finished second at 324-303—627, followed by first-round lead Tuscola at 312-318—630. Marvin Ridge was paced by Zach Pardoll, who finished fourth individually at 73-73—146.

Boyette gained confidence and momentum with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17 in the opening round and wasted no time announcing his final-round intent with a birdie at No. 1 that left him tied with Chavis for the lead. He also birdied No. 6, but bunker problems led to three bogeys and a front nine of 37 that left him trailing Chavis, headed to Pfeiffer University, and Mauldin by a shot. Chavis birdied No. 7, while Mauldin posted nine pars.

The tension escalated the back nine as the gallery grew and one member of the threesome birdied each of the first five layouts. A birdie on the par-5, No. 14 staked Boyette to sole possession of the lead. Then, on No. 15, a six-foot birdie attempt failed to fall. Boyette said a momentum builder was chipping in for birdie on No. 11. He also birdied No. 10. The three again tied when Mauldin, also tied for second after Day 1, claimed his lone birdie at No. 13.

Nerves were subjected to extreme tests down the stretch and Boyette first faltered when his wedge approach shot on No. 16 landed in a bunker and dropped him into a share of the lead with a bogey.

All three scrambled on No. 17, but Chavis failed to save par and fell a shot behind Boyette and Mauldin.

The advantage clearly belonged to Boyette on No. 18 when his 6-iron shot from 170 yards away landed some six feet past the flag. Mauldin’s approach shot wound up in a bunker and Chavis, already a shot back, missed on a lengthy birdie attempt.

Boyette remembered missing a similar putt on No. 18 in last week’s East Regional at Reedy Creek Golf Course in Four Oaks and insisted: “I wasn’t going to miss another six-foot putt for birdie on the last hole.”

“It was very competitive throughout the whole day,” Boyette said of his group. “It was pretty close and pretty fun. I just knew I had to keep chugging away and hope to make birdie. I was lucky enough to make it on No. 18.”

Mauldin, who will continue his career at Methodist College, described a share of second place as “bittersweet.”

“But I gave myself a chance,” he continued. “It just didn’t happen. I couldn’t get a lot of putts to fall (16 pars). It was pretty cool but a little nerve-wracking. But I was just glad to be in position to be a part of it. Bryson was really solid, great. Every time he made a mistake, be bounced back. He deserved it; the best player won.”

Chavis said his putter betrayed him, but hailed Boyette.

“Today, the putts just didn’t fall; that was the only difference,” he reviewed. “I figured, if I could shoot even par, that would get it done or get me into a playoff. But Bryson was very good competition and enjoyable to watch. He is very deserving of the win.”

Fike’s Jones praised Boyette’s consistency and maturity after a top-40 finish in his 2016 state debut.

“When he made that chip-in on No. 11, I knew he was going to finish strong!” Jones said. “I knew this morning, by the way he felt and the way he hit it on the practice range, he was locked in and focused. I am just so extremely proud of him. This in an incredible feeling.”

That probably merited more emotion.

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