Lake Norman Charter newcomer’s game is well-rounded

by Cliff Mehrtens

An accomplished golfer can’t rely solely on physical abilities. The mental part of the sport is equally important.

Blake Fiest, in his short time as a high school golfer, has shown great progress in both aspects. Fiest is a freshman at Lake Norman Charter. He burst onto the high school scene with record-setting performances. He’s become one of the area’s top players, and is part of a talented Knights squad that is hopeful to go deep into the state playoffs this spring.

“I think Blake believes he belongs, and he plays like he belongs,” said Greg Murphy, Lake Norman Charter’s golf coach.

Fiest, who plays right-handed, twice has set the school record for lowest score in a round.

He shot a 73 (one stroke over par) at the Lincoln Country Club on March 26 to set the mark initially. It didn’t last long.

A week later, Fiest shot a five-under-par 67 at the Woodbridge Golf Links in Kings Mountain.

Both times, Fiest was match co-medalist with North Lincoln High’s Miller Capps, a senior who has committed to play at Clemson next season.

“I didn’t expect to do this well right away, to be honest,” Fiest said. “I am a pretty big hitter for my age. I can hit pretty good and straight most of the time. I’ve been working on my putting and it’s gotten better.”

Fiest also set the school record for nine-hole score with a 33 at Woodbridge on April 2.

Murphy said Fiest is ahead of many of his competitors in the mental aspect of golf.

“Blake has an uncanny ability to make decisions under pressure,” Murphy said. “As part of our golfers’ pre-shot routine, I have them verbalize their strategy. He’s well ahead of people his age in the way he thinks about golf.”

Fiest said he began playing at age 9 and has stuck with it since. He played on Lake Norman Charter’s middle school team after a brief stint as a lacrosse player.

“I just fell in love with the game early,” Fiest said. “I like that every shot has to be good, and playing golf forces you to stay in the moment.”

He puts in plenty of time with coaches Mike Shannon and Kelly Phillips and competes in American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments in the area.

“I’ve never played on a team before, and it’s been really fun,” Fiest said. “We get along well with each other, and I know if I have a bad hole, all my teammates have my back.”

In high school golf, each golfer’s score comprises the team score, so someone’s 72 for example, carries as much weight as a teammate’s 85.

During spring break, Fiest was the match medalist at the prestigious Palmetto High School Championships in Myrtle Beach, S.C. His final round of 71 was the lowest score for the championship round, and was matched by just one other golfer.

Lake Norman Charter finished fourth among the 16 teams in its flight. The event included teams from nine states and Canada.

“Blake works very hard at his game, and has for a long time,” Murphy said. “He started playing at a young age and has a good work ethic. I think he pays attention to people who have tried to help him.

“Most high school players go through a period of growth and sometimes don’t buy into things you’re saying until their sophomore or junior year. That didn’t happen with Blake. He is calm under pressure, and he hits the ball pretty far, too.”

Fiest said Phillips has helped him to not dwell on bad shots and instead think of them as an opportunity to attempt another shot to salvage a difficult hole. For many high schoolers, a bad score on a hole can linger in their minds and affect their next few shots.

“Blake is a calculated risky player,” Murphy said. “What that means is he isn’t afraid to take a risk, but it’s the right risk. And, he takes them when you should take them.”

Fiest’s risks don’t usually involve trying to recover from disastrous strokes. He said he’s averaging reaching the green in regulation on 14 of 18 holes. His putting is improving, and he’s working on making his chipping better.

With talented teammates Jake Blum, Ross Goldbrum, Sean Murphy and Landon Ragley, Fiest could help Lake Norman Charter go deep into the N.C. 1A playoffs.