GAINESVILLE — Most high school golf teams are thrilled with qualifying for the state tournament, no matter their performance in earning that qualification.
The Gainesville boys are not most programs, however.
With seven state championships and four runner-up finishes to their name, the Red Elephants know what it takes to win at the highest levels -- and after Wednesday's round of 300 in the Area 2-AAAAAA match on its home course, Gainesville is squarely focused on improvement before it plays host to the Class AAAAAA state championships May 22-23 at Chattahoochee Golf Club.
"I'm proud of the guys; they fought and tried hard all day, but we put a little pressue on oursevles playing at home," said Red Elephants coach Bryson Worley, whose team finished third in the 18-hole event behind stellar outings from Lakeside (No. 1, 282) and second place Greenbrier (No. 2, 294). "Three hundred is average, and we're in the toughest -- at least the deepest -- classification in the state.
"We're going to work on relaxing a little bit between now and the state tournament -- along with a lot of putting, like normal. We come from a community where this means something, and it's great to be in that position."
Ryan Hogan enjoyed a strong day for the Red Elephants, carding a 1-under-par 71 to finish three strokes behind low medalist Clay Grantham of Lakeside (68).
"I got up and down on three of my last four holes to keep the momentum going, which was really nice," said Hogan, who birdied Nos. 1, 3, 4, 11 and 16. "I birdied three of my first four holes, and that was even with struggling with putting early -- I had a couple of three putts."
Brody Simmons also helped pace Gainesville, carding a 1-over 73 to finish amongst the top 10 individual scores. Davis Wagner and AD Winston each fired 78 to round out the Red Elephants' top four.
"Ryan and Brody did a great job -- I think that was Brody's best round of the year," Worley said. "But we also had a couple have their worst rounds of the year."
It would have taken an extraordinary outing to defeat Lakeside, which posted three rounds under par -- Preston Wagaman also shot 69 and Alex Colligan 70 -- while Austen Helder (71) and Tucker Meyer (73) led Greenbrier.
Habersham Central's Dawson Fricks (74) and Lanier's Jackson Cross (72) also qualified as individuals after posting top finishes on teams not qualified for state. Evans (306) and Apalachee (325) also each made it as a team.
Gainesville will contine its season on Friday at the two-day North Georgia Classic at Achasta Golf Club in Dahlonega.
"We just have to focus on our short game, putting, wedge shots -- everything from 110 feet in; that's what makes the difference," Hogan said.