Thursday September 21st, 2017 1:28PM

Golf: Gainesville rides Big Red wave to sweep of 8-AAAAA titles

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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GAINESVILLE -- Gainesville golf -- boys and girls -- lives by one rule: Play the course, not your opponent.

On Thursday it looked more like the Red Elephants -- boys and girls -- were playing against each other.

The course at Chattahoochee Golf Club certainly provided ample competition in the Region 8-AAAAA tournament, but the only golfers at the top of the leaderboard wore red and white, as Gainesville's players jockeyed for top spot en route to a sweep of region crowns -- including low medalist honors for individuals Nathan Williams and Meg Callahan.

"Winning is a byproduct of what we do," Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley said. "We don't even talk about it. We just stick to what we do and focus on being the best we can be."

The two-time defending state champ Gainesville boys were the picture of consistency on Thursday, every player carding a score in the 70s as they finished with a team score 290 -- 50 strokes ahead of Flowery Branch, which finished second with a 340.

And yet Worley and his players walked off the course somewhat disappointed.

"Every time we play we're trying to beat the course, and the course beat us today," Worley said. "It was tough out there, but it was something to build on. And we like that they're (the players) not happy."

There was plenty of joy for Williams, however, as the Gainesville junior was the only competitor on the day to break par, firing a 2-under 70 to capture his first high school tournament victory of any kind.

"This feels awesome," said Williams, who missed last year's low medal honors by just two strokes at the 8-AAAAA tournament. "I wasn't thinking about last year. I was just focused on today."

Williams showed plenty of concentration, sinking birdies on his first two holes to make the turn at 2-under. He then moved to 4-under with birdies on Nos. 11 and 15 before bogeys on 17 and 18 brought him back to 70.

"I could have gone even lower, but this was one of my better high school tournaments," Williams said. "This was my best score in (a) region (tournament). I wanted it pretty bad."

Playing on his home course and with a card full of teammates capable of going low on the course at the same time, Williams knew he would need every shot.

"We all want to win pretty bad, and any one of us can win on any given day," said Williams, whose squad netted its eighth win of eight tournaments played this campaign. "It keeps things really competitive."

In fact, it has become so competitive that all six Gainesville scores were the top six of the tournament -- and two were not even counted toward the team final.

"Nathan's been knocking on the door, so this was huge for him, and everyone hit the ball well today," Worley said. "This is a good group, and it's been fun to watch them play. This just gives us something to build on."

Gainesville's girls, meanwhile, showed that they too are building toward something, putting up their best team score of the season -- a 232 that was 33 strokes better than Flowery Branch's 299.

As with the boys, the four Lady Red Elephants scores were the four best of the day.

"I knew what was coming today because they all want to do so well," Gainesville coach Clay McDonald said. "We seem to be hitting our stride at the right time."

Gainesville's Meg Callahan and Ashleigh Bishop certainly found their stride on Thursday, as the teammates finished tied for the best round, each carding a 76 -- but Callahan was not to be denied the low medalist crown, winning a sudden-death playoff, with a par putt on No. 10.

"I was nervous because Ashleigh's a great player, but no matter who you're playing you just want to win," said Callahan, who exorcised the memories of her last two region tournaments -- in which she lost playoff competitions.

"It just feels so great to be able to do this as a senior."

The playoff so nearly went to a second hole, as Bishop watched a 10-foot par putt attempt lip out after Callahan had already parred the hole.

"This is big for Meg," Gainesville coach Clay McDonald said. "I'm a parent so I understand it's hard to watch your kids compete in something like this, but as a coach I feel like they're all my kids, so it's even tougher. I feel responsible for all of my players, and we try to make this the best experience for all of our players, so it was so great to see Meg do as a senior."

Callahan birdied No. 2 en route to the gold medal, while teammates Morgan Reece fired an 80 and Madeline Harr carded an 81 -- good for third and fourth place, respectively.

"We handle practice like we're playing so that we're ready for situations like this," McDonald said. "I just tell them to go play their game and that every shot counts. We had a great performance last week, and I was so proud of them for being mentally tough in bad conditions. And I told them let's end this postseason stretch being mentally tough."

The toughest changes still await both Red Elephants squads, as they prepare for the Class AAAAA championships, to be played in Augusta -- the boys at Bartram Trail Golf Club and the girls at Jones Creek Golf Course on May 19. Both teams are yet to play the championship courses, though they will both get practice rounds in before the tournament date.

Both teams will look to keep themselves sharp in the meantime with other tournaments, including The Invite next weekend at Chattahoochee, a tournament that will feature some of the most talented teams in boys golf.

"We're just going to go and play our best and let the chips fall where they may," Worley said.

Both Flowery Branch teams qualified for state sectionals for the right to reach the state finals.

The sectionals will take place May 5, with Class AAAAA playing at White Oak Golf Club in Newnan (boys) and Canongate Golf Club in Sharpsburg (girls).

Thursday, April 24, Chattahoochee Golf Club, Gainesville


1. Gainesville, 290
2. Flowery Branch, 340
3. Loganville, 357
4. Apalachee, 362
5. Heritage, 389
6. Salem, 406
7. Winder-Barrow, 416
8. Cedar Shoals, 451
9. Clarke Central, 496

1. Nathan Williams, Gainesville, 70
2. Spencer Ralston, Gainesville, 72
3. Jackson Bishop, Gainesville, 73
4. Grant Lasseter, Gainesville, 75
5. Lawson King, Gainesville, 76
tie, Drew Lasseter, Gainesville, 76
7. Deuce Gibbs, Flowery Branch, 78
8. Casey Lambert, Loganville, 82
tie, Chris Cook, Apalachee, 82
10. Jeremy Wood, Loganville, 83

1. Gainesville, 232
2. Flowery Branch, 299
3. Winder-Barrow, 301
4. Loganville, 336
5. Clarke Central 359
6. Heritage, 363
7. Salem, 438
8. Cedar Shoals, 443

1. Meg Callahan, Gainesville, 76*
2. Ashleigh Bishop, Gainesville, 76
3. Morgan Reece, Gainesville, 80
4. Madeline Harr, Gainesville, 81
5. Savannah Rainbolt, Winder-Barrow, 88
6. Macie Hurst, Flowery Branch 89

*-Low medalist by virtue of a sudden-death playoff
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