WHISPERING PINES — Kernersville Bishop McGuinness moved a step closer to its fourth consecutive state team championship on Monday during the first day of the 17th annual North Carolina High School Athletic Association state 1-A men’s golf championships at Whispering Pines Country Club.

Bishop McGuinness has a 23-shot lead over East Surry in the team standings, with Pine Lake Prep of Mooresville third, 26 shots off the pace. The best four of six individual scores count toward the team total.

The course is set at par 72 and 6,609 yards for the NCHSAA event.

Reilly Erhardt of Bishop McGuinness holds a one-shot lead in the individual standings, as he fired a one-under 71 and enters the final round ahead of Chance Watson of Avery and Tanner Owen of Bishop, the defending individual champion. Watson and Owen each had even par 72’s and a trio of golfers came in at 74, including Trevor Beckham of Pine Lake Prep, Nick Adams of Rosewood and McKenzie Barringer of Durham Voyager Academy.

Prior to 1986, all NCHSAA schools competed for a single title in an open tournament. Play went to three classifications in 1986 and then to four classes beginning with the 1998 tournaments.

A total of 84 golfers began play in the two-day tournament. Action is scheduled to resume at eight o’clock on Tuesday morning.