Whitley earns state bid

Published 8:12 am Monday, May 17, 2010

CREEKSVILLE – The lack of a recognized golf team didn’t stop Northampton County High School – East from placing a player in the state playoffs.

Sophomore Trent Whitley represented the Rams in this week’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A playoffs after earning his way into the field at the regional championships.

“We didn’t have enough players to qualify as a recognized golf team, but we were able to play some matches and then go to the regionals,” East Golf Coach Rick Heckler said. “Once we were there the top three teams and the next three top individuals were allowed to qualify for the state championships and Trent played well enough to qualify.”

Whitley has played golf during both his freshman and sophomore campaigns at East, but said that was not nearly the beginning of his career.

“I’ve been playing as long as I could swing a golf club,” Whitley said. “I live a mile from Valley Pine Country Club and my dad always takes me out there.”

He said he enjoyed the sport and the fact that you are accountable for yourself on the golf course.

“You are your own team,” Whitley said. “You have no one to blame but yourself.”

During the past season, the Rams were able to play five matches, though none of them counted because of their lack of a fourth person on the squad. Whitley finished third overall in one match with the Northeastern Coastal Conference schools at The Pines in Hertford despite never having played there before.

“It was the first time I ever saw The Pines and shot a 79 so I was proud of that,” he said.

After that, Whitley went to the regional competition where he had missed making the state championships by just four shots as a freshman. This time, he was the second player to earn an individual opportunity to play at Southern Pines.

“I kept my mind on trying to go to states,” he said.

Having earned that opportunity, Whitley earlier this week participated in the state championships and, though he didn’t finish as well as he would have liked, he was excited about the opportunity.

“I’m glad I made it as a sophomore because now I have the chance to try to qualify two more times and do better at the states,” he said. “It was a great learning experience and I got the opportunity to play a course I had never played before.”

Heckler said Whitley is one of the best local golfers in the region and thinks he has quite a prep career ahead of him.

“He can hit the ball as far as anyone in high school probably,” Heckler said. “He sometimes outdrives guys by 100 yards, but when he gets into trouble, he really gets into trouble.

“At the states, he didn’t hit enough fairways and greens to be competitive,” Heckler said.

“I was scrambling all day,” Whitley chimed in.

Heckler said he believed Whitley had learned the game wasn’t all brute strength, but was also shot-making.

The coach also said he thought the publicity and recognition Whitley brought to Northampton-East was good.

“Probably half of the people even in our school don’t know there’s a golf team,” Heckler said. “The coaches in the region know about Trent, however. They ask about him. Anytime you can get East recognized for golf, that’s certainly a positive.”

Whitley’s expertise will have the opportunity to grow even more as he has two years remaining to play prep golf.