Harry Huntley got more than he bargained for when he contacted A.C. Flora athletics director Bob Reynolds about the possibility of helping out with the boys golf team as an assistant coach in the spring of 1999.
“My son, Fielder, was going into the seventh grade and I just offered to help if they needed any, maybe run the junior varsity program for them to make sure the young kids got playing time,” Huntley said.
“As it turned out, the coach left at the beginning of the school year and I offered to handle things until they found a replacement. Bob Reynolds tricked me. At the open house at the start of the school year he announced that I was the coach.”
Huntley plays golf, but never was a competitive player.
“My friends probably had a good laugh when they first heard I was going to coach a golf team,” he said.
But no one could have predicted the rise of the A.C. Flora program to such lofty heights under his direction. Since 1999, the Falcons have won eight Class 3A state championships — including a current run of four consecutive titles and six wins at the past seven state tournaments.
Flora ranks among the elite programs in state history with 10 state titles and is a member of The State’s Dozen Dynasties in the Midlands. The Falcons had back-to-back winners in 1970 and 1971 in Class 4A. Only Christ Church, with 12 championships, has more hardware than Flora.
Huntley also has one title in his four seasons as the Flora girls golf coach.
“It all starts with the players, but just having good players does not necessarily assure that you will have the best team,” Huntley said. “I think it starts with the high level of expectation I have for my teams. Playing high school golf is more than a spring activity in my mind. That was the big change I had to make. To be competitive, we had to have serious players.”
That meant Huntley encouraged his charges to hit the summer junior tournament circuit. In many cases in those formative years, Huntley spent a good portion of his summers driving players to tournaments around the area and the state.
Huntley also introduced a structured practice regimen.
“You’ll never see my boys standing around just hitting range balls,” he said. “All the work we do in practice centers on the short game and putting. We do work on the course and around the putting and chipping greens. The short game is usually the key part of winning state championships. You can make up for a lot of mistakes off the tee box and in the fairway if you can get up and down pretty good.”
Huntley said when his players “got a taste of tournament golf and saw the benefit of working so much on the short game, they wanted more. And a camaraderie emerged that helped built a desire to excel on the team.”
It turned out to be an easy sell.
Huntley’s original motivation to coach was to be involved with his four children. Hunt, the oldest, did not play golf at Flora until his father became the coach. Fielder, who played for six seasons on the varsity, capped his career by winning individual honors while leading the Falcons to their first team championship in 33 years in 2003. Kathryn, a rising junior at Flora, was on the Falcons’ 2010 championship team. Jennings, the youngest, has started on the two most recent title teams.
A.C. Flora’s breakthrough came in 2003 when four all-state players led the Falcons to a 27-stroke win at the state tournament. Fielder Huntley, Marshall Ormand, Michael Chappell and Matt Nickles all cracked the top 10.
The Flora dynasty is not filled with easy triumphs. Six of the Falcons’ eight triumphs during the Huntley Era have been by winning margins of eight strokes or fewer.
The Falcons needed extra holes to escape with the 2011 and 2012 titles.
Flora has a chance to match the state record for consecutive championships next spring.
Thomas Bradshaw, Sims Tompkins, JB Murphy, Will Murphy and Wick Andrews have been the program’s spotlight players.
Bradshaw, a rising senior at Clemson, was a four-time all-state player and became the first Falcon to earn state medallist honors as a sophomore and a junior (2008-09). Tomkins and the Murphy brothers had multiple all-state seasons at Flora.
JB Murphy (Furman) was a three-time all-state player with his best finish being a third-place finish on the 2007 championship team.
Tompkins was another two-time all-state finisher for the Falcons, placing second individually on the 2007 team that was the second in program history to have all four scoring players make the all-state cut.
Will Murphy (South Carolina) made the all-state team twice after his brother graduated, and played with Bradshaw on the 2010 championship squad.
Andrews, a starter on three championship teams, earned all-state honors in 2011 and 2012.
Alan King (South Carolina), Stanton Pruitt (Navy), Collins Bradshaw (Georgia) and Lauren Dunbar (Wofford) are other Flora grads playing Division I college golf.
The program honor roll also includes former college players — Brewer Bradshaw (Clemson), Fielder Bradshaw (Wofford), Jonathan Strauss (Wofford), McLain Goodwin (Wofford), Mark Lentz (Presbyterian), Jack Easterby (Newberry), Blayde Woodrum (Newberry), Michael Chappell (Jackson State), Matthew Nickles (Washington & Lee) and Danny Priester (Army).
Andrews, a starter for the past three state championship teams, joins the club next season at USC Aiken.
As we publish more entries to this series, you’ll be able to find them by clicking this link.
Individual state champions at Flora:
Thomas Bradshaw (2008, 2009)
Fielder Huntley (2003)
Charles Warren (1992)
Gus Sylvan (1971)
A.C. FLORA GOLF STATE TITLES
1970 | 1971 | 2003 | 2004 | 2007 | 2008 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | Runner-up | 2001 | 2002 | 2006