LONGS -- Austin Frick's 15-foot uphill eagle putt on the 18th green Tuesday on the final hole of regulation in the Class 3-A state high school championship was the most dramatic moment in the eight-year history of St. James High golf.
It induced hoots and hollers of celebration from Sharks followers and Frick's teammates at Black Bear Golf Club.
Unofficial counts from observers and the Sharks' own calculations had Frick's eagle clinching St. James' first boys golf state title after a series of near-misses.
But as the Sharks were being congratulated, players from defending champion A.C. Flora were warming up on the range for a possible playoff. Once the scores were tallied, the Falcons had indeed caught St. James for the lead at 12-over 588 and the Sharks had to refocus for a playoff.
Each of the teams' four top-scoring players participated in the playoff on the par-5 18th hole. A.C. Flora made three pars to go along with a Staton Pruitt birdie in the playoff to shoot a 1-under 19, while the Sharks put two balls into the water fronting the green and shot a 2-over 22 for their third consecutive state championship runner-up finish and fourth in the past five years.
The title is the second straight for A.C. Flora and sixth since 2003.
"We had a lot of experience going for us," said Falcons senior Will Murphy, who has been on three state championship teams in his five years on varsity. "St. James is a great team, but I think it came down to experience and knowing what to do in the right situation."
Hilton Head High, which was sixth after the first day, dropped back to ninth place after a team score of 325 on Tuesday. Bluffton had a score of 324 in the second round, finishing 14th.
A.C. Flora shot 11 under as a team to win its region championship, but tied for seventh at the Lower State meet and qualified for the state championship by just two shots.
"We almost didn't get here," Falcons coach Harry Huntley said. "We had a talk, and I think they all realized what they had to do and what they were capable of doing."
Falcons senior Staton Pruitt carded a 70 Tuesday for a 1-under 143 total that earned him second place individually in a playoff and was three strokes behind the 71-69--140 posted by winner Cory Taylor of Blue Ridge.
Though St. James took a four-shot lead into the final round and bettered its opening-round 8-over 296 by four shots Tuesday, A.C. Flora shot an even-par 288 and improved upon its Monday score by 12 shots.
"Our only goal this year was to win a state championship, and that's all we wanted," Frick said. "To come that close ... to tie and think you won, then to lose in a playoff, it's pretty crushing."
St. James may ultimately regret a couple penalties related to breaches in golf etiquette. Eighth-grader Alan Crum, who shot a 73 Monday but wasn't going to count in the top four Tuesday, was disqualified by the tournament rules committee for taking a chunk out of the 12th green with his putter, and Frick was penalized two strokes Monday for playing a shot and taking a divot out of the 12th green after a wayward shot while playing the 14th.
"I played a ball off the green on another hole and had no idea it was a penalty," Frick said. "I played my round and thought I shot 74 and it ended up being 76, and that's the tournament right there."
Class 3-A state championship
Results Tuesday after the final round of the Class 3-A boys golf state championship tournament at Black Bear Golf Course, Longs:
A.C. Flora 588 (won playoff), St. James 588, Greenville 597, South Pointe 610; Chapin 613, Fort Mill 618, Nation Ford 622, Traveler's Rest 626, Hilton Head High 633, Camden 636, Blue Ridge 639, Dreher 640, Greer 645, Bluffton 646, North Myrtle Beach 658, Union County 681
Hilton Head High (633): Tate Hoisington 74-79--153, Phillip North 73-DQ--N/A, Brooks Moody 80-81--161, Yannie Reynecke 88-80--168, Chris O'Donnell 80-85--165
Bluffton (646): Wesley Long 79-84--163, Pierce Brehany 88-87--175, Shane Fox 75-76--152, Jake Rapp 80-80--160, Alec Weary 91-84--175
(Named to Class 3-A all-state team)
Corey Taylor, Blue Ridge, 140; Miles Curley, South Pointe, 143; Staton Pruitt, A.C. Flora 143; Bruce Michaels, St. James, 144; Julian Taylor, Greenville, 145; Nick Eberhardt, Fort Mill, 146; Andrew Harvey, St. James, 146; Zack Casto, Dreher, 148; Wick Andrews, A.C. Flora, 148; Chandler Ayers, Eastside, 148.