For the better part of the boys’ golf season, Hilton Head Prep constantly found itself looking up at Hilton Head Christian whenever the squads clashed on the course.
“And they were always close,” Prep coach Steven Moe said. “Three or four strokes each time.”
When it mattered most, though, the Dolphins found just enough Tuesday to bring HHCA’s three-year reign atop the SCISA Class 2-A tournament to an end — going to the final pairing on the final hole before Prep emerged with a two-stroke triumph in Conway.
“It was pretty dramatic,” Moe said after Christian Garruppo’s chip from just off the green at No. 18 sealed the victory.
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There was no such drama in the Class 1-A tournament, but nearly as much excitement as John Paul II capped its first year as a varsity program with a romp to the state title.
After building a 29-shot lead after the first day, the Golden Warriors — with a roster boasting two sixth-graders and two seventh-graders — only gave one shot back to runner-up Charleston Christian on a tough morning at Coastal Carolina’s General Hackler course.
“There was a pretty big roar about it,” JP2 coach Mark Waninger said after his team captured just the second team championship in the school’s short history. The Golden Warriors won a title in cross-country in the fall.
Alex Thaller, the only JP2 player actually in high school, narrowly missed the individual title when Tuesday’s 80 left him one stroke behind Northside Christian’s Carson Youngblood. Nonetheless, any disappointment was lost in the celebration of the team title.
“I’m not sure anything bothered them,” Waninger said. “I basically just told them to have fun. Enjoy yourselves, trust in yourselves, trust in your game. Try to avoid the big numbers. We had a couple of big numbers, but it didn’t really matter.”
The Golden Warriors finished with a total of 703, the lowest at the Class 1-A tournament since Wardlaw Academy captured the 2012 crown with a 699.
That excitement turned out to be only an appetizer for the Class 2-A showdown, as the Dolphins and Eagles entered the final day separated by just four shots and had to stare at each other all day in the afternoon’s final five groups.
“The whole day was intense,” Moe said. “As they made the turn on (No.) 9, we all realized just how close it would be. Then as they’d come up on 15, you’d hear word going around the course about the scores. A couple of the other coaches said they even were really into it.”
It all figured to come down to Garruppo and HHCA’s R.J. Bartolomucci in the final pairing, and they weren’t exactly being communicative down the stretch. Both bogeyed No. 17, leaving them tight-lipped as they came to the 18th tee.
“No one really could be sure where they stood,” said Moe, in his first year as the Dolphins’ coach.
Bartolomucci, who had struggled all day, still had a chance to apply some heat with a 20-foot birdie putt that just skimmed the edge of the hole. Garruppo, who had chipped to 2 1/2 feet, knocked home his par and the race was on for the calculators.
“When Christian knocked his putt in,” Moe said, “our whole team ran down the hill (to the scoring area) to see what he shot. When they saw he’d shot 74, they got really excited.”
Walker Campbell also shot a 74 and Aidan McCloskey added a 75 as the Dolphins finished with a total of 608. Danny Azallion paced the Eagles with a final-round 70, but Matt Lehman’s 77 was the only other score to break 80 as HHCA finished at 610.
“It was still a great match,” Eagles coach Doug Langhals said. “We have a group that’s not used to losing. They’ve had a very successful run this season and in previous seasons. ... They’re disappointed, absolutely, but they held their heads high.”
Garruppo finished third for individual honors at 1-over-par 145, three shots behind Spartanburg Christian’s Nick Willis.