Sports can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The full range of emotions hit home within a 48-hour period for two Myrtle Beach High boys' teams last week.
Only two days after the Seahawks' tennis squad made an inspirational run to the Class 4A state championship as a tribute to late coach Rivers Lynch, the golf team experienced the flip side of the sports coin by falling just short of a state title for the third consecutive season.
"We were all very close to Coach Lynch and our guys rallied around the tennis team," said Myrtle Beach golf coach Lowell Counce. "They came back from the funeral home and said, 'Wouldn't it be great if they win state on Saturday and we win it Tuesday?' Unfortunately, we just didn't get it done."
After finishing runner-up the past two years, the Seahawks were poised to claim the program's first state crown since 2002 at the Class 4A state tournament at Barony Golf Club in Hilton Head Island. They held a three-stroke lead following Monday's opening round with a season-best score of 301.
But a perfect storm of problems in Tuesday's final round — including a disputed three-stroke penalty, a broken 8-iron and an appeal that delayed the verdict for two more agonizing days — left Myrtle Beach (613) third behind host Hilton Head (607) and runner-up AC Flora (610).
"It's tough because we really believed this was our year," Counce said. "We played about as well as we can play Monday, but nothing went our way Tuesday. Things started going wrong and it really disrupted our play. I don't know if the pressure got to us or if we just ran out of gas."
After earning co-championships in the region and lower state tournaments, the Seahawks' sextet of five seniors - including 2016 individual state champ Holden Grigg, and junior standout Keegan Vaugh - got their heads shaved in a showing of team unity.
The new 'dos paid off handsomely in the first round as they built a solid lead, but the Seahawks experienced deeper cuts on Tuesday.
"Everything started going wrong about the same time," Counce recalled. "I was running trying to stop the bleeding, but I ran out of Band-Aids. I needed tourniquets."
Within a matter of holes, Myrtle Beach's Chris Pacyna was assessed a three-stroke penalty for an illegal drop, then Dalton Todd saw his 8-iron snap during a shot that left him without the use of one of his favorite clubs for the rest of the round.
The downhill slide continued as their Seahawks teammates began missing shots they normally make. As a result, each Seahawk carded higher second-round scores except for Vaugh, whose 75-74 — 149 qualified him for all-state honors.
The team totals of 301-312 — 613 signaled a disappointing finish to the high school careers for five seniors - Todd, Pacyna, Michael Yan, Wyatt Roach and Grigg, who will continue his golf career at Coastal Carolina.
The issues continued after the round with reports of inconsistencies in scoring. Myrtle Beach made the long ride home and waited two more days before learning the results were upheld.
Counce refuses to let the bitter finish taint the Seahawks' strong three-year run.
"I told them I couldn't be prouder of them for everything they've accomplished," Counce said. "We went undefeated the past two regular seasons. We've won big tournaments, the region and lower state. We've finished second in the state twice and now third.
"I told them they have nothing to be ashamed of but they said, `Yes we do, Coach — these haircuts.'"
Bad haircuts, like heartbreaks, get better with time.