MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – When it came to the leaderboard, Thursday’s qualifying round at the Palmetto High School Championship just served as a preview of things to come. The boys from Forestview High School, out of Gastonia, N.C., continued to chase the title that got away last year during Friday’s opening round at Legends Resort’s Parkland Course. Forestview, the low qualifier, holds a slim two-shot lead on Forsyth Country Day (Lewisville, N.C.), with Charlotte Country Day and Providence Day School (both out of Charlotte, N.C.) another shot back.
Looking at Friday’s weather map, it couldn’t have been much different than the previous day. Sunny skies were replaced with a cold, steady downpour as players fought to keep their clubs in their hands and their heads in the game. The enormous green blob covering the majority of South Carolina’s east coast finally moved out from on top of Legends Resort as the first groups were coming off the course.
“It’s been a tough spring with the wind and rain,” said Forestview High head coach Ken Beaty.
Forestview was able to count four sub-80 rounds, including a 4-over 76 from defending champion Taylor Dickson, a senior. Dickson went 6 over in his first nine holes, but came back in 34 after getting his bearings in the wet weather. He trails by five shots on the individual leaderboard heading into the final round.
Musically inclined: Providence Day got a big push from the sophomore duo of Davis Bateman (71) and Christian Cichan (73). Senior Harry Murrell provided back-up with a 2-over 74.
Never heard of Murrell? That’s because golf is only one of this senior’s hobbies. He names music as his No. 1 passion, and it will take him to Liverpool, England at the end of his high school career. Murrell, a singer, songwriter and pianist, will study at the Paul McCartney School of Music.
Murrell, who said he has written about 80 songs in the past three years, secured one of about 20 spots extended to international students after being selected as one of 400 students to come to Liverpool for a live audition. He’ll earn his “pop-dip” diploma after a year at the school.
“I’m really excited about that because (Paul McCartney) is like my favorite artist of all time,” he said.
So what about golf? It will still be here when he returns home next year, and he hasn’t ruled out trying to play in college if music doesn’t work out.
“Golf has always been something I’m good at, too.”
Friendly competition: Players from Chartlotte Latin and Charlotte Country Day are very familiar with one another’s games. The conference rivals were together again for the first round of regulation Friday at the Palmetto after shooting nearly identical qualifying scores of 13-over 301 (Country Day) and 302 (Latin).
Stephen DeVore, a senior at Latin, said the two teams have always been similar in talent level, and share a friendly rivalry.
“Every year we’re usually pretty close,” DeVore said. “The last three years we’ve always been right there with Country Day. They’ve been up there in the conference with us every year.”
For DeVore, it was nice to play with someone he knew during a rough day at the Palmetto, even if it did make for a long, wet day of ribbing.
“Today we were both playing so bad we were just making fun of each other,” he said of his round with Country Day’s Wilson Trent, “but normally we’ll make fun of each other anyway. It’s all in good fun.”
What happened to Pinewood? One of the bigger surprises of this year’s Palmetto is Pinewood Prep’s position on the leaderboard. After winning in 2009 then graduating top players like Austin Cody (now at Duke) and Lushen Evans in 2010, Pinewood found itself T-12 out of the 16 teams in Championship flight. The team turned in a 42-over 330.
Pinewood’s low score, 8-over 80, came from U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Katelyn Dambaugh, who won the state championship earlier this month. Pinewood also counted an 84 from Riona Hirai, a freshman who finished runner-up to Dambaugh.
A look at the field: While last year’s field was dominated by a couple of California teams, this year’s Palmetto is all about the Carolinas. The top eight schools all hail from North Carolina and South Carolina. Georgia’s Frederica played the best of any non-Carolina school, but is still 21 shots off the pace in ninth.
A total of 48 teams are in the field this year, down from last year’s 57. Nine states are represented, and two of those 48 schools are from Canada.