SUNSET BEACH, N.C. – Eric Mitchell, a senior at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C., is signed to play college golf at Princeton in the fall. So, it’s a bit puzzling that the future Ivy Leaguer has been struggling with the mental part of his golf game.
“The past few rounds I played, I probably felt more lost than I ever had on the golf course,” said Mitchell, who shot 82 in the qualifying round of the Palmetto High School Championship on Thursday before carding an 86 in Friday’s first round.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit psychologically off the tee and being able to think the way I normally do around the golf course.”
Saturday, Mitchell righted the ship with an even-par 72 on a cold, rainy day at Sea Trail Golf Resort’s Byrd course. The score helped the Furies to their second straight team title, too, as Forsyth finished at 28-over 604 to win by two shots over Charlotte Christian and 11 shots over third-place Edison High School, the first-round leader.
“Eric is the heart of this team,” said Ben Schlottman, the Forsyth senior who wrapped up medalist honors for the second straight year with a 1-over 73 to finish at 6-under 138. “He’s the one that gets everyone all pumped up before a match and goes over course strategy and everything with everyone. So to have him come out here and shoot even par after shooting 84 the day before is incredible.”
Mitchell struggled to be that motivational spark the first two days at the Palmetto.
“Friday night after the round, I had to really take some time alone and really think about what I was doing,” Mitchell said. “I texted my coach back home and we came up with a game plan: I don’t need to fix it, I just need to get something done because I can’t afford to be the score that we don’t take.”
So Mitchell went out with no expectations and also decided to leave the driver in the bag – “I felt like past 3-wood, I didn’t really know where it was going.” It paid off, as he made four birdies after posting only one in the first two days combined.
“What he did the prior two days was kind of shocking,” Forsyth head coach Joe Dillon said. “He’s usually very steady, and I don’t know that I’ve ever had to worry about him. . . . He played back to his capabilities today.”
Schlottman, on the other hand, was stellar from start to finish. The Auburn signee followed his tournament-record, first-round 65 at Ocean Ridge Plantation’s Lion’s Paw course with a final-round, 1-over 73 at Sea Trail. He added five birdies to the eight birdies from Day 1, enough to help offset a couple of double bogeys Saturday.
He finished six shots ahead of Charlotte Christian’s David Kocher, who shot 71 to finish at even-par 144. Forsyth senior Gray Townsend, a future SMU preferred walk-on, tied with Frederica Academy’s Park Brady for third at 3-over 147.
“I know Ben cares (about winning individually), but I think he’s really a lot more concerned about the team,” Dillon said.
Schlottman backed up that assessment.
“Our team hasn’t really been having our best stuff the past few weeks, and we knew coming in here it was going to be a big challenge to come out with a win,” Schlottman said. “I’m really proud of the guys. We buckled down today and really fought hard despite the conditions being terrible.”
While Forsyth has now won back-to-back Palmetto titles, the Furies still have yet to achieve their No. 1 goal, which is winning a second consecutive state title. This week was a still a much-needed test, however, for the Furies, especially with Mitchell struggling at times.
“This week was good because it made these other guys that have been riding the top three guys’ coattails realize that they’ve got to play, too,” Dillon said. “Now is the not the time we want to peak. We’re aiming a month from now.”