Lejeune High School sophomore golfer Austin Barkhimer qualified for the 1A state championship with a round of 95 at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 1A East Regional on May 7 at Cypress Landing Golf Club in Chocowinity, N.C. Barkhimer made the cut by one stroke, claiming the region’s final spot in its group of top-six individuals whose school did not finish in the top three.
“I was pretty surprised,” said Barkhimer about hearing his name called as a state qualifier. “At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to them saying the names, and then I was like, ‘Wait, that’s my name’, and it just kind of shocked me.”
At the time, Barkhimer’s teammates were aware that he had qualified for the state championship, which will be held at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C. on May 13 and 14. They didn’t tell him to make it that much more of a surprise.
“It’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I’m really excited,” Barkhimer said.
The course at Cypress Landing was unforgiving with the top finisher shooting a 7-over-par 79 and 13 of 40 golfers carding rounds in the 100s. Lejeune’s second-year coach Michael Phillips said the course at regionals was narrow and had a lot of out-of-bounds stakes, so there was little room for error. He also attributed some of the high scores to nerves.
“I thought they (our golfers) play a few strokes better than they did,” said Phillips. “Several of them are young, so that may have played into it. There were two freshman and a sophomore that I think the nerves may have gotten to them a little bit. Overall it was good. They’ll be back next year.”
Lejeune’s next best rounds were a 99 from freshman Robbie Morgan and two 105’s from Peter Sullivan and Broden Wilhelmsen. Despite the lack of low scores, Coach Phillips knows that his players play the game the right way.
“The most important (thing) is to be honest about how you’re playing the game,” Phillips said. “If you know your ball is out of bounds, then it’s out of bounds. If your ball moved, it moved. You just call it on yourself. That’s the best way to play, whether you shoot 100 doing that or 90. Be honest.”
Barkhimer, whose father is a master sergeant in the Marine Corps, was born on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, but made moves to Virginia Beach and Okinawa prior to returning home. Though he has only been playing golf for less than three years he’s figuring it out at a fast pace.
“When you’re hitting good it’s pretty relaxing,” Barkhimer, who plans to enlist in the Marine Corps after high school, said. “It’s fun to just come out with friends and play, too.”
Barkhimer will have his game tested when he plays at Pinehurst. Often referred to as “The Home of American Golf”, Pinehurst’s first course was laid out in the late 1800s and its famed No. 2 course, which hosted the 2014 US Open, opened in 1907. The NCHSAA State Championship will be played at course No. 6.
“This is an unbelievable experience for him because Pinehurst is the crème de la crème,” Phillips said. “It’s beautiful. It’ll be an experience he’ll remember for a lifetime.”
Originally designed in the 1970s by renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio and his uncle George, Pinehurst No. 6 was renovated in 2005 by Fazio to carve new bunkers and speed up the greens. The course was ranked by the North Carolina Golf Panel as a top-50 course that is playable for the public in 2019.
Coach Phillips said that once Barkhimer tees off, they probably won’t even talk about golf to keep his mind off it. Instead, Phillips says they might talk about lunch that day, because Barkhimer likes to eat.
“Everybody’s going to be nervous on the first tee,” Phillips said. “Everybody’s going to hit a bad shot that day. The key is can you recover after the bad shot.”
Barkhimer’s goal is to break 90 at the state championship. He’ll have two opportunities to meet that goal beginning with round one on May 13.
1A East Regional Results (Cypress Landing Golf Club, Chocowinity, N.C., May 7, 2019):
Riverside – 352
Southside – 355
Princeton – 355
Rosewood – 380
Lejeune – 404
Austin Barkhimer – 95
Robbie Morgan – 99
Peter Sullivan – 105
Broden Wilhelmsen – 105
Owen Stewart – 121