My round on Saturday went extremely well, I would rank it in my top five best competitive rounds ever. I fired a sixty-eight on one of the most demanding courses I have ever played. This round of four under-par gave myself a cozy three shot lead going into Sunday. Once I holed the last putt, I felt on top of the world. Everyone in Sanford was saying “Patrick Cover is running away with it, nobody will be able to catch him. ” Not only were my fellow competitors talking about my round. Social media was blowing up from my friends and supporters back home.
Before I even got the chance to tweet about my round, my school’s athletic department tweeted the news. Everyone back in Lake Norman knew about it after that. It was awesome to be recognized by so many people but with that recognition came a great deal of pressure. Everyone was making it seem like I had already won the tournament but these people were foolish. If you have ever watched golf before, you know that anybody can beat anybody, on any given day. I didn’t sleep too well that night, I had so many thoughts going through my head. I didn’t want to let down my school, my town, my coaches, and most importantly myself.
The only sense of comfort I had that night was provided by my team. With them by my side, I could relax a little bit and take some pressure off myself. It all went by so fast, there I found myself standing on the 15th tee box strategizing with my coach. I was three under-par for the round and seven under for the tournament, many shots clear of the competitors in my group. I knew that I just had to hold it together and put on the cruise control for the last few holes. I told myself that three bogeys and a par would still get the job done.
That is exactly what I did, I finished bogey, bogey, par, bogey for an even par 72. When I holed my bogey putt on the 36th hole, my teammates ran out to the green to congratulate me with high fives. I thought to myself, I’ve done it, I am the 2014 4A Mens Golf State Champion. My name would go down in the record books forever. All I had to do was sign the scorecard and it was official. My state championship title was put on hold as I walked up to the scoring area. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. One of my competitors, Stephen Franken shot a 2nd round of 66 to come in with a total of 140.
I was in utter shock. I would have to beat this kid in a sudden death playoff if I wanted to be the state champion. My eyes followed his ball intensely as it flew towards the elevated green. I heard the crowd applaud his shot when it hit the turf and I responded by saying, “good shot. ” Neither of us could really tell where the ball was but it must have been decent to get a cheer from the crowd. Now it was my turn. This was the moment I had been practicing for all my life. I have hit balls after balls on the range, pretending to be in a situation like this.
Here it was, my moment had come. 131 yards away, uphill but slightly down wind. It was a perfect pitching wedge for me. I stood behind the ball as I came to complete confidence in my club of choice. I went through my pre shot routine, as I would with any other shot. Toss some grass to see where the wind is, two practice swings and then pick a specific intermediate target. As I stood over the ball, my hands were shaking, my heart was pounding and my breath was short. I swung the wedge back smoothly and struck the ball right in the middle of the club face.
It penetrated through the air like a gun shot, low and straight towards the pin. Those two seconds that the ball was in the air felt like a minute. I keenly watched my ball until it disappeared over the hill. Cheers from the crowd projected down the fairway, these cheers were much louder than those for Stephen. I knew this shot had to be pretty close to receive and applause like that. I gave a little smirk over to my coach, picked up my bag and headed to the green. There was a compelling silence between Stephen and I as we approached the green, neither of us knew where our golf balls had come to rest.
Upon arrival, I saw that Stephen had a putt from thirty feet away, and mine, only two feet from the pin! I almost jumped out of my shoes but I knew the job wasn’t done yet. Stephen was the first to play, he read his putt closely for a few minutes as he knew he would have to make it to stand a chance. I looked away from him as he rolled the putt, something I always do in head to head competition. I waited to hear his ball hit the bottom hole, instead I heard a loud “ooooh” from the crowd. I turned around to see that he missed his putt and I had a two footer to be the state champion.
I lined up towards the left side of the hole because the ball would break a little bit back to the right. I tried not to think about it too much, two practice strokes and stroke it with confidence. That’s exactly what I did, I put it right in the back of the hole. The sound of my ball hitting the metal of the cup was unlike any other putt I have made. I felt so relieved, I could finally take a deep breath. I took off my hat to shake Stephen’s hand and that was it. In the kind of ending I could only dream about, I was the 2104 4A Mens Golf State Champion.