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Gainesville boys, girls sweep Hall County golf championships

Red Elephants' Ralston wins second consecutive boys title, Harr wins girls low medalist in playoff

POSTED: March 11, 2014 11:12 p.m.

Gainesville’s control of the Hall County golf championships may have never been stronger than it is now.

The Red Elephants’ boys team shot a two-day total of 5-under par 283 and the girls recorded a 160 en route to the program’s fourth straight sweep of the annual invitational Tuesday at Royal Lakes Golf & Country Club.

Spencer Ralston won his second consecutive boys individual county title with a 3-under 69, improving on his winning scorecard from 2013 by three strokes after shooting a 36 on the back nine.

Madeline Harr clinched the girls low medalist honors by holding off Gainesville teammates Meg Callahan and Morgan Reece with a playoff hole birdie after the three seniors each finished the two-day event with 84s.

The end result was the Red Elephants owning the top four spots on both the boys and girls leaderboards.

“We all just completely swap who places every single week,” said Harr, who won her first county title. “It’s different every week. This year especially — there’s a lot of encouragement. We’re really strong, encouraging each other. We all want each other to play well.”

Gainesville’s girls shot a 79 on Day 2, improving on Monday’s 81 on the more difficult back nine, which the girls teams played first.

Harr’s 43 was a stroke better than defending county champion Callahan, who shot a 40 on Monday. It still wasn’t enough to secure the title after Reece, the 2012 champion, shot a 40 to force a three-way tie for the lead.

Harr needed a crucial 12-foot putt for birdie on No. 1 to hold off Callahan.

“It just barely went in,” Harr said. “I didn’t think it was going in.

“It was an OK day. A lot of hard pin placements on both days. I had a couple of unlucky shots where I got some back breaks. It was a grind all day.”

Surprisingly enough, not one of the three golfers shot the lowest score on Tuesday’s front nine. That honor went to Ashleigh Bishop — Gainesville’s fourth golfer — who carded a 39 for a fourth-place score of 87.

It was another strong outing for Bishop, who recorded a team-best 83 at the Spring Swing on Saturday in Cleveland, another tournament the Lady Red Elephants won.

“They’ve started the season winning three tournaments in a row, and they want to go out with a bang,”

Gainesville girls coach Clay McDonald said. “We’re just taking it one tournament at a time and one day at time, but we’re building for the end of the season and the state tournament.

North Hall’s Haley Twiggs shot an 88 to finish place fifth overall. She managed a 40 on the front nine to tie Reece for the second-lowest score Tuesday.

The Lady Red Elephants finished 40 strokes ahead of second-place West Hall, which was led by Olivia Davis’ sixth-place 90.

“You still have to make putts and make good shots when it counts, and we did that,” McDonald said. “It’s unfortunate that one girl has to win, but on the other hand I’m really proud of all of them.”

Gainesville’s boys weren’t pleased with their 6-over 150 performance on the back nine, despite still having the lowest nine-hole team score for the second straight day.

Ralston’s even-par 36 was the lowest total of the day and propelled him to first place after Day 1 leader Lawson King shot a 40 to finish third overall with a 71.

The sophomore, who is already verbally committed to the University of Georgia, struggled to start the day, falling to 3-over through seven. But he rallied from a bunker to birdie on No. 17, then ignited applause from nearby opponents and spectators with a 60-foot putt from the fringe for eagle on 18.

“Usually the course conditions stay pretty consistent,” Ralston said. “You have to know where to hit on a couple of these holes, so the more you play it, the better you become at playing it strategically.”

Nathan Williams snuck into the runner-up position with Tuesday’s 37 and finished the tournament with a 2-under 70. Jackson Bishop, a Western Carolina signee, placed fourth with a 75.

Gainesville’s team score was the second-best in school history. The Red Elephants set a new program mark with a 270 on Saturday at the Apple Mountain Invitational.

They were on pace to break the record again after Monday’s 5-under 133, but couldn’t keep their scores low enough to top it. They still set a Hall County championship record.

“We had one pin that was successful and that was 18,” Gainesville coach Bryson Worley said. “I think all of them would agree that the pins were tough, except for the last hole.

“We started off slow — I was glad we bounced back. I saw a lot of fight in our kids with adversity.”

Nevertheless, the two-time defending state champion Red Elephants may be playing their best golf right now. They’re 3-0 in tournament play this season.

“Obviously, we’re playing pretty well,” Worley said. “The biggest thing about these guys is they’re just a bunch of great guys. They have a lot of character and a lot of pride in what they do. They take it upon themselves to do what they need to do.”

North Hall finished second in the team standings with a 346, edging Flowery Branch by three strokes. The Falcons had been second through Day 1.

Flowery Branch’s Alden Jackson was the closest to challenging Gainesville’s scores. He carded a 38 on Day 2 to finish with a fifth-place 77.

Hunter Young of North Hall recorded a 40 Tuesday and finished with an 80, tying Gainesville’s Brady Holcomb for sixth place.


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