High School Sports

New coach, no problem as A.C. Flora repeats as Class AAA champs

A.C. Flora players pose with the trophy after winning the Class AAA state championship Tuesday.
A.C. Flora players pose with the trophy after winning the Class AAA state championship Tuesday. mmckinnon@thesunnews.com

Dynasties are hard to come by.

But A.C. Flora first-year boys golf coach Robert Dargan stepped right into one, replacing legendary coach Harry Huntley, who retired after leading the Falcons to their sixth straight Class AAA state championship and his 10th overall at the school last season.

Dargan admitted his A.C. Flora squad didn’t have the best regular season with a 77-41 record heading into the playoffs, but the Falcons got it done when it mattered most as they finished 11 shots ahead of runner-up Eastside to take first place Tuesday at the Class AAA state championship at The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina.

It’s the seventh straight state championship and 11th title in 14 years for A.C. Flora, which extended its own state record for consecutive boys golf state titles. Dargan was just glad to continue the trend.

“I always like to brag on these kids because I had nothing to do with their success up until this year. They’re a good group and they were already a great team when I took over,” Dargan said. “It was pretty easy for me. Coach Huntley built the program here and all I had to do was just kind of point them in the right direction and make sure everything was working right. We struggled a little bit, but we saved our best for last.

“It almost made it easier because of the success they’ve had in the past. A lot of the kids grow up and just want to play golf and are now used to winning state championships.”

We only had a few [double bogeys] in the tournament. We talked about eliminating them, and they did a good job of following through.

A.C. Flora coach Robert Dargan

Tuesday’s win also capped an illustrious high school golf career for Falcons senior Dwight Cauthen, an N.C. State signee, who had won four straight state titles – three coming at The Hackler Course – and finished tied for sixth individually (76-73–149) to earn all-state honors.

“It’s awesome. We have such a good time and it’s nice to win, but it’s also nice to know this is a sport and I have good people playing with me,” Cauthen said. “We have a great team, we have a great camaraderie and everything. It was a little different this year not having coach Huntley, but coach Dargan has been great. I’ve really enjoyed having him as a coach. But there’s just something about this golf course. We seem to play pretty good here.”

Entering the final round, A.C. Flora held an eight-shot lead over Eastside and Hilton Head and cruised to the win with Cauthen, Ian Stewart and Falcons junior Ryan Marter leading the way.

Stewart earned all-state honors after finishing tied for sixth (74-75–149), and Marter was named all-state as well as he finished second individually after shooting a 1-under 71 on Day 1 to pace the Falcons. Marter shot an even-par 72 in the final round to finish six strokes back of individual champion Jacob Bridgeman of Chapman.

“We didn’t have our best year, but coming into this we were motivated. We all played really well and finished it off,” Marter said. “[Monday] was a lot easier, definitely. I started off with two bogeys [Tuesday], but I settled in and made par on about eight straight and was able to finish it off well. I feel good about it, just helping this team any way I can.”

Bridgeman, meanwhile, was going for a triple crown of sorts Tuesday.

He shot 1-under 71 in Monday’s first round and a 6-under 66 on Tuesday to finish six strokes ahead Marter. The title comes on the heels of an Upper State individual victory and first place finish in Eastside's region tournament.

The course played tough, especially [Tuesday]. But I was able to conquer it.

Chapman’s Jacob Bridgeman, the individual champion

“I really wanted to win all three,” Bridgeman said. “It’s nice to accomplish it and in such dominating fashion, too. It was just one of those days.”

Dargan’s squad had a battle on its hands with several schools in contention on the final day. But its first-day performance gave the program the boost of confidence it needed.

“We knew who the better teams were in Eastside, Hartsville, North Myrtle Beach, Gilbert and Hilton Head. Those were the teams we knew we had to beat, and I know they thought the same thing about us,” Dargan said. “In all honesty, we knew if we could get our nose out front – and we did with a really solid day yesterday – that we have enough talent to get them thinking they could do it. And they did.

“You never know how these kids are going to play. You hope for the best and plan for the best, but you just don’t know until the end. But they played with poise the whole two days.”

I’ve known everybody on the team for a really long time; we’ve all become really good friends. I’ll miss them, I’ll miss playing for Flora, I’ll miss practices and I’ll missing coming here [to The Hackler Course]. But I know they’re going to be great for the next few years and probably beyond that.

A.C. Flora senior Dwight Cauthen

With Marter returning and a new crops in the works through what he calls strong youth programs in the Columbia area, Dargan believes the future should remain bright.

Just don’t expect him to take the credit.

“They worked hard and deserve it all,” he said. “They got it done; I just drove the bus.”

Team scores–1. A.C. Flora (+23), 2. Eastside (+34), T3. North Myrtle Beach (+39), T3. Hilton Head (+39), 5. Hartsville (+47), 6. Gilbert (+48), 7. Wren (+56), T8. Lancaster (+62), T8. West Oak (+62), 10. Myrtle Beach (+68), 11. Emerald (+69), 12. Beaufort (+71), 13. St. James (+74), 14. Aiken (+78), 15. Blue Ridge (+90), 16. South Pointe (+114).

All-State, Individuals–1 Jacob Bridgeman, Chapman 71-66–137; 2 Ryan Marter, AC Flora 71-72–143; T3 Levi Moody, Travelers Rest 74-72–146; Caleb Proveaux, Gilbert 72-74–146; 5 Brandon Masters, Wren 76-72–148; T6 Dwight Cauthen, AC Flora 76-73–149; Ian Stewart, AC Flora 74-75–149; Matthew Griego, North Myrtle Beach 74-75–149; T9 Bennett Gilliard, Eastside 71-79–150; Jimmy McCollum, Eastside 78-72–150; Brooks Dyess, Hilton Head 74-76–150; Brady Hinkle, Lancaster 76-74–150; Matt Smith, West Oak 76-74–150.

Top area individual finishers–1. Matthew Griego (NMB) 74-75–149; 2. Holden Grigg (SJ) 75-80–155; T3. Jake Dupuis (NMB) 81-75–156; McClure Thompson (NMB) 81-75–156.

Max McKinnon: 843-626-0302, @mmckinnonTSN