N.C. Central University golf senior Jordan Bohannon looked out to the dormant fairway with both hands on his hips as he stood just five feet away from his teammate Zane Lewis. The remaining three golfers of NCCU men’s golf team stood around the two, all men looking out in the distance. Their attention was firmly set on the descending golf ball Lewis hit out into the open space.
“It’s so confusing how far to the right it goes,” sophomore Nathan Corley said.
Corley stepped up to the tee box while Lewis made his way toward the rest of his teammates, in disbelief of where his ball landed.
“I told you! I told you — it’s this course,” Bohannon exclaimed.
Corley placed his golf ball on the tee and held his club behind the ball, practicing his stroke a few times before sending the ball in the air.
“Nathan Corley sizing up his second tee shot on the way. Goes about 300 feet in the air, bounces straight — perfect drive,” Bohannon said, pretending to be an announcer. “I’m just happy that I know this guy.”
It was April 1, just one day before the start of the inaugural HBCU Invitational Tournament. The skies were mainly sunny with moderate winds at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Raleigh. Birds sang gleeful tunes while swans and geese occasionally roamed around the golf course, almost knowingly trying to stay out of the way of the golfers.
Within 24 hours, competing teams from Alabama State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Hampton University would test NCCU’s golf team on an unfamiliar playing course with a championship layout.
According to NCCU alum, assistant golf coach and Eagle Ridge Golf Club general manager Sumner Tate, the golf course layout is approximately 7,000 yards from the back tees.
Its long distance combined with pro-level length, slopes, hills and depth of green made for an unexpectedly challenging game of golf between the four collegiate teams.
The competition was relocated to the current location after a golf course in Myrtle Beach, S.C. failed to respond back to NCCU’s team in a timely manner. Eagle Ridge Golf Club became a viable option largely due to Tate’s connection to the school.
Tate graduated from NCCU in spring 2017 with a Mass Communication degree. He played his last two years of golf at NCCU after transferring from Louisburg College.
“Sumner has a special place in my heart. I coached his golf team at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School and Sumner was the no. 1 player on that team,” NCCU golf head coach David Hinton III said.
NCCU golfers clad in carnation-pink collared shirts and either khaki shorts or black slacks traipsed the course to practice their swing and get a feel for the hilly land.
“It being only 30 minutes away from home and we’re co-hosts of the tournament. It kind of feels like we have a home field advantage,” Lewis said.
While most of the golf team’s tournaments are out of state, this one was particularly special for its convenience of travel for friends and family.
Unlike previous golf teams at NCCU, this 2017–18 men’s golf team was the first group coach Hinton recruited as freshmen.
“The seniors now are my first guys I recruited as freshmen,” Hinton said. “I got them coming out of high school.”
Now in his sixth year as head coach, Hinton remembers a time when he inherited a team from a previous coach. His two best players currently have the lowest (best) scoring averages in NCCU men’s golf history.
“Jordan Bohannon and Zane Lewis: those two are my one and twos. They flip-flop back and forth from year to year [as] my best two players,” Hinton said.
Lewis and Bohannon both hold school records for scoring averages with a career 75.96 for Bohannon and 76.24 for Lewis.
“It’s really a sport you play in between your ears. I think it’s one of the biggest mental sports that you can play,” said Bohannon. “You have the driving game, iron play, putting, short game, trouble shots and sand game. If you’re a good thinker, then generally you’ll be a good player.”
NCCU’s men’s golf team finished in second place with a total of 615 pars, after ASU with 613 pars while UMES placed third with 661 total pars.