One thing was abundantly clear after the Sandhills Community College men's "A" and "B" golf teams took first and second place in the Flyers Fall Intercollegiate held at Country Club of Whispering Pines on Sunday and Monday.
Grant Gilbert posted scores of 75-74-149 to earn medalist honors and teammate Ted Sluser was second with scores of 79-74-153 as the Flyers' "A" team finished seven strokes better than the "B" squad.
The third and fifth place finishers, individually, were freshmen Stephen Spencer, 80-74-154, and Carson Witherspoon, 76-82-158, of the Flyers' "B" team in the tournament that also included Surry CC, Davidson County CC and Central Carolina CC.
"Our team is very competitive so we have the luxury of entering two teams in a couple of tournaments," Coach Gus Ulrich said of his 11-man squad. "It was easy for me last year because we only had five players so I knew who was going to play every week.
"These guys are really going to have to work hard for a starting position which is the competition you want to have to be a strong team."
Grant, Sluser and Nick Agapion were members of the Sandhills team that finished one stroke behind Georgia Military last June at the NJCAA Division III National Championship held in Chautauqua, NY.
A product of Porter Ridge High School, Grant earned honorable mention All-American honors after finishing in 15th place in the national tournament behind teammate and medalist Trey Capps.
"I started out a little shaky yesterday and then birdied three of my last four holes," Grant said of Sunday's first competitive round of the fall season. "I did the opposite today and then played okay on the back nine. I didn't have any three-putts and that helped a lot."
A member of the all-freshmen "B" team, Spencer came to Sandhills from Uwharrie Charter School. His 74 on Monday tied him with Gilbert and Sluser for the best rounds of the tournament.
"Yesterday my putting was absolutely horrible," he said. "I had 37 putts and today I had 30 or 31. If I can get my putter straight I'm looking at low 70's every time."
The next tournament is the Don Scalf Memorial Invitational on September 22-23 hosted by North Carolina Wesleyan. Spencer wants to be one of the players selected to represent the Flyers.
"Yesterday coach told us that this tournament would heavily weigh on who he takes to Rocky Mount," he said. "Yesterday I shot 80. I knew when I went to bed last night I've got to prove myself to stay with the team for the next tournament.
"I think I proved myself pretty well today. I'm hoping that's enough for him to take me to Rocky Mount."
In addition to Spencer and Witherspoon (Patton High School), the other members of the "B" team for this tournament were Jacob Fuller (Chapin High School, SC), Andrew Crawford (Cox Mill) and Dakota Oman (Cox Mill).
Thomas Storbeck (Clear Lake High School, Iowa), who was a member of the team last fall, will save his final season of eligibility for the spring.
Beginning his 12th season as the coach at Sandhills, Ulrich's team won the national title in 2014 and were runner-ups in 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2019.
"I just love Whispering Pines and the Ellis Maples Pines Course," he said. "I think it's a classic. It's a great test and Rodney Russell and his staff are so good to us and we're so grateful they allow us to come out here and play and practice.
"Everybody got to play and yesterday and today were a good test for our team. Starting out with Grant and Ted this was a good showing for us, but we've got a lot of work to do."
For Grant and the other returnees, their sights are on another bid for a national title.
"We'll have a good team again when we go to nationals next spring," he said. "We have 11 players and all of them hit the ball really well. Gus is a great teacher and Pinehurst is a great place to be to play golf."
Team standings: 1. Sandhills (A) 318-318-636, 2. Sandhills (B) 329-314-643, 3. Surry CC 329-324-653, 4. Davidson County CC 336-331-667, 5. Central Carolina CC 391-394-785. Individual leaders: 1. Gilbert (SCC) 75-74-149, 2. Sluser (SCC) 79-74-153, 3. Spencer (SCC) 80-74-154, 4. Smith (SUR) 75-80-155, 5 Witherspoon (SCC) 76-82-158, 6. Bryce Hedgecock (DCCC) 79-80-159, 7. Lacey (DCCC) 81-80-161, 8-tie.Huber (SCC) 78-86-164, Fuller (SCC) 86-78-164, Eaton (SUR) 87-77-164 ; Other Sandhills: Crawford 87-80-167 Roder 86-84-170, Agapion 89-86-175, Oman 93-83-176.