PINEHURST — Caden Hodges was just a freshman when Midway last hoisted the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A Men's Golf Championship runner-up trophy.
After a tense hour of scoreboard watching as the final results dribbled in at Pinehurst No. 6 Monday, Hodges joined his Raiders teammates in celebration again as they accepted more state tournament hardware.
"I feel like we did pretty good. We have an inexperienced team, and I feel like we're really young," said Hodges, now a junior veteran and the only leftover from the 2019 group that also took runner-up honors.
"We were very surprised of the second-place finish from what we had."
After COVID-19 forced an abrupt ending to last season with just one match in the books, Midway saw three seniors depart, including two-time state champion Logan Patrick.
Though Raiders coach Glenn Patrick lamented not having the self-proclaimed "dream team" (that won first place in the 2A state tourney in 2018) for this go-around, he was just as elated with the result.
"This team has been the most fun because it's new to them. They're young and they want to play," Patrick said.
"Just seeing the young kids produce and achieve their goal is a blessing."
Hodges flashed his state tournament savvy early, playing bogey-free golf on No. 6's hilly contours until dropping a shot on the 13th hole.
His only other blemish was a triple on 18 that put him at a four-over 76, good enough for seventh place overall.
"I was pretty nervous, but they say if you get nervous that means you care," Hodges said, adding how good he felt about the round especially his ability to convert up-and-down chip shots.
"Caden is a special player. He's been here, he's done it and he's just a class act. He's a leader on our team, too," said Patrick.
Meanwhile, East 2A Central Golfer of the Year, Logan Atkins, finished tied fourth with a 3-over-par 75 to lead Midway.
Atkins capped his day with five straight pars, including one to conclude his first state championship appearance.
"The first hole and my last putt on 18 was nervous. ... "I've played in a lot of big tournaments, but there's never been that many people," Atkins said.
John Michael Best and Jackson Lee both posted an 87 to help the Raiders end with a 325 total score.
"It was definitely more nervous than any other match I've played at ... It's been a great experience. I've never played at a Pinehurst course," said Lee, a senior, in his second season with Midway.
"I couldn't be happier, going to states my last year, I'm extremely excited about that."
Lake Norman Charter took top team honors with a total score of 311. It marked a second time edging Midway since 2019.
"We lost three seniors last year and we still got second place. Lake Norman is losing a couple (seniors) so I think next year it will be close," said a determined Atkins, a sophomore who has already vowed to match his former teammate's pair of individual titles.
Meanwhile, Patrick is just as emboldened about his young squad's future in the seasons to follow.
"To come back and be runner-up to the state champion shows a lot of class in our program. ... Our Midway golf program is big time and we're gonna keep continuing and getting better," Patrick said.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com 910-230-2040.