McGowan Medalist, Pats Champs in Pilot Cup Golf
Michael McGowan tamed the winds at Pinehurst No. 8 on Wednesday afternoon. The O'Neal School senior shot a three-under par 69 to earn medalist honors at The Pilot Cup county high school golf tournament.
In a field that was missing the teams from North Moore and Union Pines, Pinecrest won the team title for the sixth year in a row, this time by two strokes over the Falcons, 320 to 322.
Because of rainouts for conference matches on Monday, the Mustang and Viking squads were both committed to make-up dates on Wednesday. That canceled the anticipated duel between the No. 1 and No. 2 junior golfers in the state (TYGA rankings) in McGowan and Robert Hoadley of Union Pines.
"I texted him (Hoadley) after I heard they rescheduled their match from Monday due to the weather," McGowan said afterward. "I asked him, 'What's up? It's not going to be the same Pilot Cup without two of the teams.' It's nice to have those guys around and have fun."
Playing in the event for the sixth time, McGowan birdied the first three holes on the back nine, distancing himself from the field. He finished nine strokes in front of co-runners-up, Sam Packard and Bryan Stewart of Pinecrest. They both posted rounds of 78. Those three were the only golfers to break 80 under the blustery conditions.
The last time O'Neal won was in 2003 when the event carried the banner of the Sandhills Optimist Club tournament. Held at Southern Pines Country Club, the Falcons finished five strokes in front of Pinecrest that year. McGowan shot an 87 as a seventh grader the next year, while the Patriots began their current streak of titles with a four-stroke victory.
McGowan, a UNC signee and 2008 North Carolina Junior Player of the Year, managed to get through the first nine holes on Wednesday at even-par while the winds were blowing the hardest. After the birdies on 10, 11 and 12, he missed two more birdie attempts. He went to 4-under with a birdie on the par-5 17th before making a bogey on 18.
"When I think about it, I could have birdied seven of the nine holes," McGowan said. "The last three matches this year I've bogeyed the last hole and shot 69. I can't complain, but I'd like to get under that number some time soon."
Both teams posted scores considerably higher than they are accustomed to in conference matches. O'Neal coach John McDougald felt the wind was only a part of the equation.
"I don't think either team played anywhere near its potential," he said. "This is a grudge match. This is more pride than golf. We saw that in everybody's score today. Michael went out and played really well. Regardless of the conditions, everybody else wanted it a little too badly to play well."
For more on this story, see Friday's sports section of The Pilot.
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