Posted: Monday, March 11th 2013 at 2:02pm
Area teams gear-up for Hall County Championships
By Jeff Hart Staff
The Gainesville boys and girls will be the teams to beat Monday and Tuesday at the Hall County Championsips at Royal Lakes.
OAKWOOD -- Gainesville boys golf coach Bryson Worley, despite what looks to be an overwhelming belief that his 2013 team may be the best team not just in Hall County or Class AAAAA, but in the entire state at any level, says every day is a proving ground.
The Red Elephants will get their first chance to prove it against the rest of Hall County at Monday’s annual Hall County Championships at Royal Lakes Country Club.
Boys and girls teams will tee-off at 3:30 p.m. in the first round of the two-day event. The second and final round will begin at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I know people say we’re the team to beat and that may be the case. But you have to go out and prove it. Hopefully we’ll go out and play well and prove that we’re as good as people say we are,” Worley said.
Gainesville won the Class AAA state title last year and is considered a strong contender for the Class AAAAA crown this year.
They proved they are deep in their first tournament a week ago winning the Johnny Paulk Invitational in Jekyll Island against many of the state’s best.
Seniors Pep Brown (Wofford), Reeves Bell (Young Harris), and Webber Wycoff (Methodist University) all have signed to play at the next level. Juniors Jackson Bishop and Grant Lasseter, sophomore’s Davis Brown, Lawson King, and Nathan Williams, and freshman Spencer Ralston give Worley nine players that can all have potential to be the low medalist at every tournament.
In the first two tournaments of the year all nine have been in the starting lineup. Ralston is the nation’s fourth-rated best freshman and may be one to watch down the stretch.
“We are deep and have a lot of talent but you still have to go out and perform,” Worley said. “We don’t have a top six. All nine know they will have to play themselves into the lineup and they actually have helped me come up with a system to find the hot guys and make sure we have the best six on the course for that tournament.
“They are a very mature group and very unselfish. We go into every event knowing that our opponent is the course and we don’t focus too much about who is in the (tournament) field.
The Elephants will be in Region 8-AAAAA and should find plenty of competition, especially with Flowery Branch and Heritage. The region tournament will be held at Chattahoochee with the top two teams moving on to state.
For Flowery Branch, coach Brad Smith feels he has a squad that will compete for a state playoff spot, especially coming off a region title last year.
The Falcons are senior-driven led by Kameron Williams, Colby Stone, Eric Little, and Sean McNight. Smith said any of those four can record a low score at any tournament.
“We know it’s going to be tougher with Gainesville in the region but we have lofty goals and expectations this season,” Smith said. “These guys have gotten better each year and they know they can compete. I think they are looking forward to competing against the best teams like Gainesville.”
Graduation to some key players last year has opened up spots. Jordan Windish, Jordan Austin, Jake Dupree, and Kyle Erickson are expected to be in the mix for the final two lineup spots giving the Falcons a deep squad to choose from.
“It will be wide open and it could be different every tournament. But we have several talented guys that can all step up. It should be fun to watch to see who does,” Smith said.
White County and Buford, along with the Trojans, should be the top teams in the region in 2013.
“We only have one senior but we have talent and I think we have a good chance to be competitive in most events,” Mills said. “It should be a tough region but I think we have a chance to make state.”
Richie Mote is the only senior and juniors Clay Hoffman and Hunter Young give the Trojans a solid core. Mills will have seven players, five of them freshmen, to try and fill out the lineup.
Drew McCormack is considered the top freshman on the team and is expected to be in the starting lineup. Fellow freshmen Will Barrett, Rex Crumpton, Cord Sanford, and Michael Page will join juniors Clay Shope and Travis Davis in competing for spots in the lineup.
“They guys know that spots are wide-open and that we will play the guys playing the best,” Mills said. “Our goal is to try to be better today than we were yesterday.”
Johnson in Region 8-AAAA may be in a rebuilding mode in 2013 with the loss of several key players to graduation, and another to baseball.
Coach Jeff Steele says they will be young with just one senior after Carter Cagle decided to play baseball.
“We lost some good players and at the start of the year we’re looking for to see who will step up,” Steele said.
Ryan Davis is the only senior and Pete Fitzpatrick is the only junior. Sophomore Shane Burdette and freshmen J.T. Gibson, Pete Adams, and Jake Bowers are expected to round out the lineup.
“We’re just trying to get better each time out,” Steele said. “I don’t know how tough the region will be as a whole but we’ll see if we can improve by the time the (region) tournament comes around.”
Lakeview Academy is poised to put perhaps its most competitive team ever on the course in Region 8-A.
The Lions will be led by sophomore John Jacobs along with Gabe McConnell, Kevin Baldwin, and Paul Avery.
Coach Matthew Gruhn said they are looking forward to getting things started.
“We’ve been practicing and are ready to get into some tournaments,” he said. “John is probably our best player and potentially this could be our best golf team ever.”
The Region 8-A Tournament will be at Athens Country Club later in the year and the Lions would be a darkhouse to get to the state tournament with Athens Academy, Athens Christian, and Prince Avenue among the region favorites.
For the girls, Gainesville should once again be a strong contender for a state title. The Lady Elephants won the Class AAA state title and would be among a handful of teams with a shot at winning the Class AAAAA title.
Gainesville is young, deep and experienced with three juniors and a freshman among their top five players.
Coach Clay McDonald said he is expecting big things once again from his group.
“As a whole we’re improved over last year,” he said. “The key will be us staying healthy. If everyone is available we should have a very good season.”
Three juniors in Meg Calahan, Madelyn Harr, and Morgan Reece and freshman Ashleigh Bishop had a solid showing at the Johnny Paulk Invitation in a Ryder Cup format of teams. Sophomore Avery Smith should also see time in the starting lineup.
Harr and Reece teamed up to finish seventh while Calahan and Bishop took ninth.
“That was a good showing for both groups,” McDonald said. “I thought they played pretty well. The key for us will be staying healthy.”
The Lady Elephants are an overwhelming favorite to win the Hall County Championships.
Flowery Branch will have a very young team that coach Brad Smith feels could show promise by the end of the year.
Aleah Jarrard and Victoria Cox have some experience but the Lady Falcons will have to rely on newcomers.
High expectations will will be placed on Whitney Spain and Lauren Hill.
“We expect big things from (Spain and Hill) but we also expect big things from the group. Our goal is to improve on last year and place in the top 5 at the region tournament.”
No other information on area girls teams was given prior to the publishing of this story.
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