Young Hawks enter break riding high


In a sport highlighted by individual performances, Seaforth boys golf coach Bobby Stewart has preached a team mentality with his nine golfers this spring.

The point of emphasis has clearly gotten through to the Hawks, who are in the middle of a highly successful season in just their second year as a program. On top of performing well in Mid-Carolina 1A/2A Conference matches, Seaforth took down defending 1A state champion South Stanly with a low score of 151 earlier this season.

Leading the charge for the Hawks this season are sophomores Griffin Ching and Gray Stewart and freshmen Campbell Meador and Ty Willoughby. Ching, Meador and Willoughby each shot a 37 on nine holes against South Stanly, while Stewart was close behind with a 40. For the season, Ching leads the team with a nine-hole average of 38.4. Meador (38.4), Stewart (39.0) and Willoughby (39.4) are also all under 40 for the year.

Seaforth hopes its young core will carry the team to success come the 2A state tournament, which will be held at Longleaf Golf & Family Club in Southern Pines. The Hawks didn’t place as a team at last year’s championships, but Ching finished tied for 11th with a two-round, 36-hole score of 158. Stewart finished tied for 44th with a score of 175.

Earlier this week, Stewart spoke with the News + Record about his team’s early-season success and his excitement for the rest of the year.

How do you feel like your team has performed this season? How did it feel to beat defending state champion South Stanly earlier this season?

BOBBY STEWART: The season has been going really well. We have a young but talented team. I kept nine on the team, but the top six have remained fairly steady all year. It’s been great to watch the young guys come together and enjoy playing together as a team. We’re very talented, but we’re young and we’re trying to figure out what that means and how we exactly compete. It was a tremendous honor to get to play against South Stanly and get to see how these guys do when they’re competing against a team of that quality. All in all, I’m very pleased with how the season is going. I think the team is very pleased and having a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to keeping the season going as long as we can keep it going.

What is it like have a core group of players who are both young and also very talented?

This top four, we’ve interchanged how they’ve stacked up each week. The team voted early on to do challenge matches every week and let that stand for who plays one through six, and we’ve been following that. It’s a lot of fun, I have to be honest. This team, they’re all really good kids. They really have fun playing golf, and they really have fun playing golf together. For me, it’s just been a ton of fun watching them play. I’ve been a part of a ton of teams in my past. I’ve coached high school and college basketball, some high school tennis and all sorts of stuff. But this team is really unique and fun. When I ride up to a player during the match, the first thing they do is ask how everybody else is doing, which is a lot of fun. It’s not a bad gig to watch some high-quality golf each week. 

How does it feel knowing that you’re in the unique position of having no seniors and that you’ll have the opportunity to build something beyond this year?

It should be an amazing three years, to be honest with you. Of our top six, we’ve got two freshmen, three sophomores and one junior. If we have these six stay together, and then we have a couple of kids right behind them who are getting better by the day, this core group should be able to do some really amazing things. One of the reasons we wanted to play against South Stanly is because that program has been so well-established for so long and has had great teams and great individual players over the years. For me, it’s going to be fun to see if Seaforth can build a program like that. There’s certainly enough quality golfers in our area that should be coming to Seaforth over time. It will be fun to build something that can last and be sustainable over time. 

What do you want to see from your team the rest of the season before regionals?

Number one, I’d like to see them continue to stick together and want to be part of the team. A long, long time ago, I was a very good tennis player and I was part of a team that was fortunate, in South Carolina, to win a state title. We’ve been talking a lot about maintaining that team connectivity in the midst of an individual sport. Number two, we’ve been talking a lot about them understanding that every shot every day in practice and every match opportunity really matters. I’d like to see them focus down the stretch on committing to move on to the next shot no matter what happens and just maintaining a high level of fun. We get on the bus every day and the first thing we talk about is, “We’re going to a golf course. It’s a beautiful spring day. What could be better?” That’s sort of been their approach. They’re just having fun and enjoying the process.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.