Young Panther golfers

Carolina Forest girls golf coach Mike Gray manages a practice at Myrtle Beach National.

Girls golf coach Mike Gray is not only pleased with this year’s team, he’s already excited about next year’s group.

“This year I picked up three more girls and have four returning,” the Carolina Forest High School coach said. “Three of the girls I have are probably the top in the region, so I’m pretty lucky in that aspect.”

Colleges are already taking what Gray called serious looks at three of the girls.

“We have three potential scholarship athletes on the team, and that’s in a sport where there’re a ton of girls playing.”

Led by freshman sensation Mia Gray and juniors Alayna Fortenberry and Victoria Callahan, the team also includes seventh grader Savannah Sansom; eighth graders Gracelyn Toler and Dakota Santos; and senior Brooke Holmes.

“We didn’t finish in the top five in tournaments except for regions, and this year, because of a couple new additions, we are dominating the region, and I think we’re probably a favorite to finish in the top three in states,” Mike Gray said.

Last year the team came in second in regions, sixth in lower state, and in the middle of the pack at the state tournament. 

Mike Gray added that because his young team is already as good as it is, and because he won’t be losing anyone except one senior at the end of this year, “we will be extremely strong next year.”

The coach said this year’s team is made up of “some of the hardest working and hardest practicing girls in golf that I know of.”

His team is on the course practicing about three hours at a time, four or five days a week.

Mike Gray said his team has two important strengths.

One is that “the girls are tight. They’re not cliquey, but they’re very close-knit, best friends on and off the course. They support each other and they cheer for each other.”

Another strength is the overall character of the golfers.

Gray explained that “the golf culture is different from other sports because it’s a self-officiated game where you call penalties on yourself. You have to have a lot of integrity for that. They’re genuinely good-natured young women. They’ve all been raised well and they’re well-mannered.”

It took him a minute to think of the team’s weaknesses and he finally said, “They’re young so inexperience is the only weakness I see. They’re a little green.”

Mike Gray explained that golf is a game that requires self control and a calm demeanor. 

“If you hit a bad shot and you’re still thinking about it when you make your next shot, chances are you’re probably going to get another bad shot,” he said. “You need a bad memory in golf, you have to keep your emotions in check.”

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