With eight consecutive state championships, 12 titles in the past 17 years and only two seasons without a first or second since 2001, A.C. Flora’s boys’ golf program fits any definition for dynasty.
Who would believe, then, that a decade before the march to excellence began the program had become dormant? And if Charles Warren hadn’t transferred from Hammond to Flora in 1990, would the Falcons have earned all those championship trophies?
“I’m sure someone would have restarted the program,” Warren said.
Nevertheless, Warren’s perseverance – “We needed a team in order to play,” he said – rekindled the golf fervor at Flora that produced two state titles in the early 1970s during the Gus Sylvan years.
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“We made some phone calls and put some guys together for a team,” Warren remembered. “We were competitive. We might have won the regional one year. We got my math teacher, Lou Roberts, to be the coach; I think he drew the short straw.”
The seeds sown then – Warren won the individual state title his junior year in 1992 – eventually blossomed into today’s dynasty. Coach Harry Huntley turned Flora golf into a powerhouse and the program has continued to flourish under Robert Dargan the past two years.
Warren would become a three-time All-American at Clemson, win the NCAA individual championship in 1997, finish second a year later and play 11 years on the PGA Tour.
He lives in Greenville, works in commercial insurance and mainly plays “business golf.” He laughed and said, “Quitting the Tour didn’t help my putting.”
During his years on the PGA Tour, Warren helped establish the Tiger Golf Gathering, a fundraiser for the Clemson program, and he will be in Columbia next month to assist with a fundraiser for the Flora teams.
“We’ve use the Tiger Golf Gathering for a model,” Warren said. “We started the year Clemson won the national championship and found it was easy to raise money with something to celebrate. Given Flora’s success, we have a lot to celebrate and we should have a great event.”
The Flora Golf Gathering will be held on June 19 at Columbia Country Club. Warren and Lauren Dunbar, a former Falcon golfer who competes on the Symetra Tour, will be the speakers. For details and to enter, call Dargan at 803-414-5311.
The recipe for success starts with talent and dedication, “but there are things people never think about,” Dargan said. “For example, the value of Greg McBride making the Spur at Northwoods our home course can’t be measured.”
In reflecting on his triumph in the NCAA tourney, Warren said, “It’s been 20 years, and it still seems like yesterday.”
It’s been a little longer since he helped revive the Flora program, an endeavor he called “a lot of fun. We had five guys, six or seven max; we couldn’t afford for anyone to get sick.”
That’s a far cry from the program Huntley built and Dargan continued. This year, the Flora program had 23 players – an enormous number in high school golf.
Graduation losses means “we probably won’t be favored next year,” Dargan said, “but the foundation is in place for the program to remain at a high level for a long time.”
And all this started with a transfer student who wanted to play on a team.
Kelli Murphy (Elgin/Auburn) teamed with Reona Hirai (Summerville/Furman) to capture the CGA’s Carolinas Women’s Four-Ball in Southern Pines, N.C. … The Midlands Golf Course Owners Association is offering VIP books in a summer special in time for Father’s Day. Both the Gold and Platinum books can be purchased for a total of $60. Buy prior to June 15 and receive a complimentary round at both the Spur at Northwoods and The Golf Club at Star Fort. Call the SCGA at 803-732-9311 for information. … Katelyn Dambaugh, the USC All-American who completed her college career in the NCAA Women’s Championship last week, will make her professional debut Friday in the Symetra Tour’s tournament in Albany, N.Y. … Clemson golfer Alice Hewson has been named to the Great Britain-Ireland team that will compete this summer against a squad from Continental Europe in the Vagliano Trophy Match. … Tate Hoisington (Hilton Head Island) captured the rain-shortened South Carolina Open at Dataw Island Club with a two-day total of 4-under 140.