In most classifications, the 2018 Gainesville boys golf team would enter the state tournament as the team to watch.
Class 6A, is not most classifications, however, and the depth and talent that will take the field beginning on Monday at Jekyll Island's Pine Lake Course is considered one of the best in recent memory. (NOTE: For a complete look at area teams an individuals competing in state golf May 21-22 scroll down.)
Make no mistake, a stout Red Elephants squad is still very much in the mix, but they are just one of several programs with title aspirations.
"We're kind of under the radar a little bit coming into state," Gainesville coach Bryson Worley said. "Johns Creek is definitely the favorite, so for us it's more just a case if relaxing and seeing what we can do."
The Red Elephants have done plenty this season already, averaging a 295 team score (low of 287) while winning three tournaments and finishing top five in the remaining seven while competing against a typically-tough schedule, but Gainesville also knows it cannot afford a slip in Jekyll Island if it wants to keep pace with Johns Creek and fellow contenders like Harrison, Creekview, Dalton, Greenbrier, Lakeside (Evans), Cambridge and Dunwoody.
"(Class) 6A is just so tough, but we're one of those teams that have a chance," Worley said. "And I feel like we're in a good spot. We've got four seniors that have been through a lot, and that helps everyone. There's something about seniors in their last event; they just relax and go."
Certainly Ryan Hogan, Davis Weaver (both UNG commits), Brody Simmons (Wallace State commit) and AD Winston would love to end their varsity careers on a high, netting the Red Elephants' first state championship since 2013 -- which also came on the links of the Pine Lake Course.
"We're excited to be going back; it's a good course, neutral, not goofy or tricky," Worley said of Pine Lakes, which the Red Elephants have also played already this season.
"Right now we're just getting in the right frame of mind; we're very cognizant of our mental attitude, and we've been trying to get in the right mental space for the past couple of weeks."
That includes the possibility of dealing with weather delays thanks to the on-and-off rainy pattern that has engulfed the entire state for the past week.
"We practice in the rain and then we'll pull them off occasionally and make them sit and wait like they're sitting through a weather delay," Worley said. "We do all kinds of things so we don't get shocked by anything that happens on the course. We had a weather delay last time we played at state down there, 45 minutes, and they handled it perfectly."
While that was only over one day -- the state meet moved to a two-day format last season -- the Red Elephants would love nothing more than an encore of that performance on Monday-Tuesday.
"We've got a lot of depth on this year's team; that's our whole philosophy," Worley said. "Hopefully we'll all peak at the same time."
AREA COMPETITORS AT STATE GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Teams listed by classification)
BOYS - Pine Lakes Course, Jekyll Island
Individual - Kirk Griffin, Habersham Central
GIRLS - Indian Mounds Course, Jekyll Island
BOYS - Planterra Ridge Country Club, Peachtree City
Individual - Connor Gillespie, Flowery Branch
GIRLS - Braelinn Golf Club, Peachtree City
BOYS - Achasta Golf Club, Dahlonega
Individual - Jacob Adams, White County
GIRLS - Innsbruck Golf Club, Helen
BOYS - Cateechee Golf Club, Hartwell
Individual - Jeremiah Crumbly, Dawson County
GIRLS - Cateechee Golf Club, Hartwell
Individual - Lainey Panter, Fannin County
BOYS - Applewood Golf Club, Keysville
Individual - Luke Gosnell, Banks County
Individual - Sam Speed, Rabun County
GIRLS - Waynesboro Country Club, Waynesboro
CLASS A Public
BOYS - Double Oaks Golf Club, Commerce
GIRLS - The Preserve at Lake Oconee, Greensboro
CLASS A Private
GIRLS - Heron Bay Golf Club, Locust Grove