Highlands golf team takes first place in SMC Championship

Highlands golf team wins Smoky Mountain Conference Championship after two rounds of play at Sky Valley Country Club on Thursday and Old Union Golf Course on Monday. Highlands Head Coach Keven Gabbard said everyone stepped up and did a great job and four Highlands golfers are in the top 10 in conference.

Highlands Drew Chalker drives at Old Union on Monday during the SMC Championships. Highlands took first place and Blue Ridge Early College won third place. Both teams qualified for Regionals.

“Great day for the team in coming from behind to win the Championship by 29 shots,” said Gabbard. “Thank you parents and grandparents for your support this season. Everyone played great under the pressure of a Championship, I am a very proud coach. Thank you team, love you guys.”

Two-day totals of SMC Championship:

Highlands 750

Murphy 779    

Blue Ridge 785      

Swain 788      

Cherokee 789     

Robbinsville 815      

Rosman 840

Blue Ridge Early College came in third place of the seven teams competing in the championship and both Highlands and BREC qualified for Regionals. BREC Head Coach Tim Mayse said it was best finish they have had in conference in a long time.

BREC Joe Madden tees off at Sky Valley

“Very proud of the effort and determination of our guys,” said Mayse. “Second time in three years we have qualified for Regionals as a team, which hasn’t been done in a very long time at Blue Ridge. Great year for our guys. We hope to now play well at Regionals. And I would like to thank Trillium for allowing us to use their club for practice again this year. They have been very gracious and supportive.”

Highlands Samuel Hawkins chips onto the green at Old Union Golf Course.

Highlands Samuel Hawkins had a two-round total of 183 and earned top 5 in conference. Highlands Drew Chalker, Mattson Gates, and Destin Gearhart; and BREC Fisher Druffel and Steve Madden earned Honorable Mentions.

Gates said Sky Valley and Old Union were very different courses each with their own challenges.

“Architecturally, Old Union is a completely different course with much less elevation change and longer holes,” he said. “Sky Valley is tighter, narrower; it’s more challenging with the elevation change and the shots it makes you take aren’t as forgiving.”


Highlands Mattson Gates sets up to putt at Old Union.

Gates added that a golfer’s state of mind plays a big role in one’s performance.

“In the first round I wasn’t feeling really confident,” he said. “Golf is a mental game and when you lose your confidence it’s hard to get back. During the second round at Old Union I was calm, confident, and it translated into my score.”

BREC Noah Pressler swings out of deep rough and puts it on the Fairway at Old Union.

Druffel said he was frustrated with his performance at Old Union and that Sky Valley was more his speed.

“I played way better at Sky Valley and it was in way better shape,” said Druffel. “We are ready for Regionals. Noah (Pressler) and myself have been to Regionals the past two years so this will be three in a row and we are used to it now. We’re also happy this year to make Regionals as a whole team.”

Highlands Destin Gearhart sizes up his next putt at Old Union.

Highlands Destin Gearhart felt a better vibe with the flat fairways of Old Union.

“I played a lot better in the second round,” he said. “I was more relaxed and just had fun. I like Old Union as a golfer, it’s open and forgiving. Sky Valley is really tight and you have to be perfect on all your shots.

Highlands and BREC face off again at Regionals on May 7 at The Ridges in Hayesville.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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