J.D. Lehman approached the final hole Sunday at the Golden Bear Golf Club feeling relaxed and comfortable.
It was the senior's belief that his Hilton Head Christian Academy golf team was simply playing out the stretch, a win in the Eagles' season-opening tournament seemingly in hand.
"I thought we had a six- or seven-stroke lead at the time," he said. " ... That's what coach (Doug Langhals) told me on No. 17. I tied there so I figured, 'All right, no blood.' I figured we won by six or seven."
But the Louisville commitment's approach never changed. He chose not to play it safe on No. 18, opting for his driver instead of a 3-wood. He had his sights on a birdie at the finish line, hoping to vie for an individual title in the process.
Good thing, too. When South Aiken's Ryan Carpenter sunk a 20-foot putt for eagle, Hilton Head Christian clung to the slimmest of margins. A bogey from Lehman would have sent the two teams into a one-hole playoff, a double bogey giving the visiting Thoroughbreds a huge come-from-behind victory.
"I thought it meant something," Carpenter said.
But Lehman didn't allow the pressure to faze him, mostly because he didn't know there was any. The Eagles standout missed a 10-foot birdie putt but tapped in for par, giving Hilton Head Christian Academy a narrow victory in the inaugural Golf Etc. High School Invitational.
The Eagles (608) held on despite a furious rally from South Aiken (609), which erased a nine-stroke deficit in the final round before coming up short.
"We didn't play stellar, shoot-the-lights out but we did play consistent," Langhals said. "All the credit to South Aiken for pushing us at the end. Getting an eagle in the final group to get it within a stroke, (that's) phenomenal playing. It was a great tournament, a great finish."
Hilton Head Christian used a strong start in a rain-soaked opening round to eke out the win. The Eagles fought through rainy weather for a team score of 300, which proved to be enough over the final 18 holes. South Aiken shot a 299 over the final round, led by Carpenter's 1-under-par 71.
The College of Charleston signee, a two-time all-state selection, took home the individual title for his efforts. The senior was the only golfer to card both of his rounds under par, which was capped by his eagle on No. 18.
"(The first round) I struck it really good," said Carpenter, who fought through tendinitis in his left knee on Sunday. "I didn't really putt that well. I had three three-putts. But with the way I hit it, I was able to get an under-par score.
"... Today I thought (my knee) was going to make a big factor, but it was fine. I was able to make a couple putts coming in."
Langhals and Lehman both left encouraged about the Eagles' performance. Hilton Head Christian continues to shake off cobwebs as the early season begins, as a pair of golfers both played this weekend fresh off of basketball season.
"We haven't played a whole lot," Lehman said. "So be able to go out and compete, scrape out a win in our first tournament of the season, it's nice. It sets the tone for the season. We're all looking at this and seeing where we can improve so the next time we're not in this position, we're ahead more and stuff like that."
Lehman wasn't overly pleased with his weekend -- "I just got lucky," he said -- as he struggled to make putts over the two-day event. But he still managed to finish second overall behind Carpenter, and that certainly bodes well for the Eagles as they prepare for SCISAA play.
"Honestly, coming into this tournament, our goals were pretty modest," Langhals said. "With half the guys coming out of basketball season, we didn't know quite where we'd be. ... To come out and show this kind of character at the end and finish was a big deal."
Golf Etc. High School Invitational
Sunday, Golden Bear Golf Club
1. Hilton Head Christian Academy 608, 2. South Aiken 609, 3. Hilton Head Island High 632, 4. Lexington I 645, 5. Lexington II 660, 6. Savannah Christian 675, T7. Beaufort High 679, T7. West Ashley 679, 9. Bishop-England 686, 10. Aynor 709, 11. Chapin 725, 12. Irmo 740, 13. Dutch Fork 744
Top 10 individual
1. Ryan Carpenter, SA 71-71--142
2. J.D. Lehman, HHCA 72-75--147
3. Jonathan Schuble, HHCA 75-75--149
4. Hayden Ploeger, SA 76-76--152
5. Troy Hoisington, HHH 78-75--153
6. Zach Herold, LEX II 76-78--154
T7. Brooks Moody, HHH 75-80--155
T7. Bryson Nimmer, HHCA 75-80--155
T7. Andrew Orischak, HHH 83-72--155
10. Jake Carter, SA 80-76--156