Sunday September 24th, 2017 11:40AM

Golf: GHS boys blister Royal Lakes in opening round of Hall Co. Championships

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
  Contact Editor
OAKWOOD -- Mother Nature and Royal Lakes Golf Course were no match for the Gainesville boys golf team Monday on the opening round of the Hall County Championships.

The Red Elephants shot an 11-under 133 on the front nine and placed five of their six starters in the top 10 of the individual leaderboard despite wind-gusts of nearly 15 mph during most of the round.

The final round will begin Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Royal Lakes.

Gainesville coach Bryson Worley said he was a little surprised at the low scores considering the conditions.

"It's a tough course when there isn't wind so to post scores like we did was outstanding," Worley said. "We told the guys to be aggressive in respects that they could play the course whatever way they felt comfortable."

Gainesville junior Lawson King led the way with a 5-under 31, two shots better than teammates Spencer Ralston and Nathan Williams. Jackson Bishop fired an even-par 36 and Brady Holcomb had a 3-over 39 for the Elephants top four scorers.

"I've been playing pretty well lately and my plan was to keep the ball low and hit greens. I was able to do that except for No. 9," King said. "I'm a little surprised to be leading because Spencer has been so good lately but we all feel we can win (the individual title)."

King eagled Nos. 1 and 3 and birdied Nos. 4 and 5 before closing with his only bogey on No. 9.

Ralston, who came in as the favorite for the individual title, also eagled No. 3, bogeyed No. 4, and had birdies on Nos. 6 and 8 for his 3-under 33.

"My approach (in the wind) was to be patient and take a little extra club," Ralston said. "I hit the ball pretty well overall. I had a couple of putts I feel I should have made but I was happy with the round."

North Hall senior Hunter Young was considered among the top non-Gainesville players with a chance to grab the individual title but struggled over the final four holes and finished with a 4-over 40. He was even par going to No. 6 but suffered bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7 and a double-bogey at No. 8 to fall off the pace.

"I always struggle here and with the wind it was a tough day," Young said. "I probably played a little too aggressive with the wind conditions like they were. But the back nine is tough even in good conditions so anything is possible (Tuesday). If I can hit some greens I have a chance to put up a low number. We'll see."

In the boys team standings, Flowery Branch was second with 171, led by Alden Jackson's 39. North Hall was third with 174, paced by a 39 from Clay Hoffman. Johnson was fourth at 195, Lakeview Academy fifth with 199, East Hall sixth at 204, Chestatee seventh with 209, and West Hall eighth at 223.

Individually, eight players are within nine strokes as they head to the difficult back nine on Tuesday.

King led the way with his 31 followed by Ralston and Williams tied for second at 33. Bishop was fourth with a 36, with Hoffman of North Hall, Jackson of Flowery Branch, and Gainesville's Holcomb all tied for fifth with 39s. The Trojans' Young was eighth with a 40, Tanner Merck of Flowery Branch was ninth at 42, and Lakeview Academy's John Jacobs and Johnson's Shane Burdette are tied for 10th with 43s.

In the girls tournament, the Lady Red Elephants lead the way with a team score of 81. West Hall was second at 99, North Hall third with a 106, Johnson fourth at 107, Flowery branch fifth at 112, and Chestatee was sixth at 114.

The race for the individual title honors may come down to the final hole with six players within six shots.

Meg Callahan of Gainesville led the individual leaderboard with a 40, one shot better than teammate Madeline Harr (41). Olivia Davis of West Hall is third at 43, Morgan Reece of Gainesville is fourth with a 44, and Gainesville 's Ashleigh Bishop and North Hall's Haley Twiggs were tied for fifth after shooting 48s. Macie Hurst was sixth at 50, Chestatee's Madison Eiberger and Johnson's Kristen Waters were tied for eighth with 52s, and Madison Stewart of Johnson 10th after firing a 55.
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