GAINESVILLE — Familiarity and a career-best round helped the Gainesville boys golf team to a first round lead on Monday at the Class 7A golf championships at the Chattahoochee Golf Course.
Playing on their home course, the Red Elephants battled tough, windy conditions to finish with a 2-over par 290 to lead the 12-team field. They will take a three-shot lead over both defending state champion Milton and Lambert, who both fired 293s on the Par 72 course, into Tuesday’s final round.
Tuesday’s play will begin at 8:30 a.m. with Gainesville teeing off at 9:30 a.m. as it tries to capture its first state title since 2013.
Gainesville was anchored by a 2-under par 70 from senior Ryan Davidson and a career-low 71 by senior Turner Edmondson. Freshman Henry Kopydlowski shot an even-par 72 in his first state tournament round.
“Super proud of Turner with a career-best high school score,” Gainesville coach Cameron Milholland said. “We’ve had him, and the back end of the lineup, play qualifiers to make the team better and stronger and I think it paid off. But really just proud of the guys in general.
“The conditions were rough today but Ryan had a good round and Henry was just incredible for a freshman. But we also had a few guys finish bogey-bogey and we’ll have to make sure we do a better job of finishing strong tomorrow.”
Nearly all of the top 10 individual finishers bogeyed at least one of the final two holes, if not both.
The first round surprise had to be North Forsyth, who finished fourth in the Area 2-7A tournament and just squeaked into the field at Sectionals. The Raiders sit fourth at 7-over (295) and are well within striking distance.
They were paced by senior Dax Isbell, who shot a 1-under 71, highlighted by a chip-in on the Par 4 15th.
“We came out prepared and ready to go. We rely on Dax and his brother Cole [1-over 73] and they came through, but we also got a couple of other guys to really play well,” North Forsyth coach Rodney Moore said. “Even though we barely got out of Sectionals I felt that on any given day we could play with anybody. We’re in the hunt but we also feel like we left some shots out there. If we just do a better job of saving some shots and finishing well, we’re right there.”
Edmondson said there was a method to his record-setting day
“I made my money on the Par 5s,” he said. “I was 4-under on the Par 5s and I hit the green on three of them. But I thought my course management was really good today. I’m going to start new tomorrow and take it one shot at a time.”
Davidson felt the Red Elephants played well for the conditions and likes their chances on Tuesday.
"It was very tough out there and I thought we played smart out there for the most part," said Davidson, who sat at 4-under late in the round. "I thought I made some good shots but I also thought I had some stupid shots as well at the end. You can't win it on the first day but you can definitely lose it and I don't think I did that so I'm pretty happy overall.
"Considering how we played today, if we play that well, and smart, tomorrow I feel like we have a good chance. It should be a lot of fun out there. I'm looking forward to it."
Gainesville was the only team to have two individual players in the top 7 and three in the top 10. But North Paulding’s Bryant Vail holds the individual lead after the opening round with a strong 4-under 68. His only blemishes, like most of the field, were bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18.
Davidson is in a group of five at 2-under in a tie for second while Isbell and Edmondson are tied for 7th at 1-under. Kopydlowski and Jack Darke of Forsyth Central are tied for ninth at even par.
(Click here to see the entire individual leaderboard.)
(Click here to see the entire team leaderboard.)