By: Garrett Mitchell
Take one step inside the gym at Woodruff High School, and you will be instantly immersed in photos and plaques along all four walls commemorating the near innumerable champions of Wolverines past.
Now, a newly minted photo will take its place among the greats to honor a team of champions for the first time in 20 years.
The Woodruff golf team can now lay claim to that crown, defeating long-time dynasty Bishop England by 15 strokes to take the crown on Tues. May 18 at Three Pines Country Club. It was the culmination of years building a program capable of standing toe to toe with the private school domineers of South Carolina high school golf. As a light rain fell over the 18th green, the Wolverines reached the summit after many years of climbing.
It was the first team state championship for Woodruff High School since 2001.
“This means the world to us,” said senior Daniel Brasington. “I, Trey (Howard) and Chase (Turner) went in together in the seventh grade, and it was always the goal to win the state title. Finally getting to do it, it means everything.”
Brasington was the overall medalist for the state championship tournament, shooting a four under 68 on day one and a par of 72 on day two for a four under par score of 140 over two days.
Brasington was one of four Wolverines named to the 3A All-State team as a top-10 tournament finisher and was joined by Ben McKinney and brothers Trey and Gage Howard. Trey Howard finished just one stroke behind Brasington with a two-day score of 141, second among all golfers in the field.
“From the bottom of my heart, I can say I have always known that everyone on our team has the makeup of a true champion,” said Trey, a senior. “All we had to do was stay out of our own way and do our thing, and it would eventually fall right into our arms.”
Trey’s brother, Gage, is a sophomore and said learning from his older brother has shaped him into the golfer he is today.
“It’s so special,” he said. “(Trey) pushes me every day to be better. It’s really special. After day one, we felt really good and knew we had a good chance.”
Woodruff not only beat the Battling Bishops, but they also humbled them in such a way rarely seen by even the best teams’ standards. The Wolverines led by ten strokes after day one, and following a somewhat slow start on day two, caught fire once more and increased their lead down the back nine.
Woodruff ultimately won by a monumental 15-stroke margin and left no doubt who the best 3A team in South Carolina was. As a team, Woodruff shot 575, one under par, to Bishop England’s 14 over par 590. Simply put, the Wolverines were dominant.
“We’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said sophomore Ben McKinney. “It feels good to finally own that trophy. We got the job done.”
As for the advantage of playing for the championship on their home course, McKinney did not understate the advantage.
“The greens are tough here, but we know how to read them because we play at Three Pines so much,” McKinney. “With (Bishop England) coming in new, they might not know what they are seeing.”
Watching coach Bill Brasington, Daniel’s father, you could not keep the wide grin from his face. It was a look of simultaneous pride and appreciation for both his golfers and for the Maroon and Gold-clad fans who overflowed the parking lot at the Three Pines Clubhouse to cheer them on.
That support was apparent to anyone close by as the crowd assembled at the final hole erupted into boisterous applause as Brasington sank his final, ceremonious put to officially cap the triumph.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Coach Brasington. “It was a dream years ago, and really, that’s all it was, just a dream. We had to work hard, and we had to get better. What I love is that the guys bought in to not focusing on end results. They focused on getting better every day. It’s unbelievable.”
Coach Brasington added, “The support from our community was outstanding. Woodruff supports the schools, and Woodruff supports the young people. Frankly, that’s why I love to call it home.”
And for the 2021 members of the Woodruff High School golf team, this will be a memory they will never forget.
“I could really feel a lot of encouragement coming from everybody,” Trey Howard said. “Everywhere you look people were cheering for us. It was really cool to have that happen.”
Daniel Brasington added, “That was our goal all year, to just get better every day and see where it led us.”
And that final destination was a state championship for a remarkably talented group of young men. Bishop England may be the dynasty, but not in 2021. The Bishops were knocked off the board by a team determined not to lose.
That was the Wolverines’ checkmate. Now, time to find a big picture frame.