Wherever Spencer Ralston has gone, success has been quick to follow.
The Gainesville grad and current University of Georgia golfer was a part of three Hall County championship teams during his time with the Red Elephants, earning 16 individual titles and being named to the all-state team four times along the way. At Georgia, he was a part of the SEC All-Freshman team his first year and the All-SEC second team as a sophomore.
This season, he was named to the All-SEC first team, an achievement that Ralston is pleased with, as it reflects the gradual improvement he’s seen since joining the Bulldogs. But more importantly for him, the Georgia golf program finds itself right in the thick of the national title race following a first place finish at last week’s Athens Regional.
The NCAA championship will begin on Friday at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“I think it’s cool to see the trajectory the team has been headed on after being awesome for so long and then kind of went through a couple of down years, my freshman year and sophomore year compared to how historically the team has played,” Ralston said. “This year has been really cool to get us back on the map and have a chance to win the national title.”
The Bulldogs’ return to prominence at the national level has coincided with Ralston’s own ascension, as he has cut down his average score in each of his three years at Georgia, and now stands alone as the low scorer on the team as a junior.
Ralston said his time with the Red Elephants laid the groundwork for success at the collegiate level.
“Coach Bryson Worley ran the Gainesville High School program like a lot of college programs, if not better than some,” he said. “... The way they ran that program has helped me transition into college very well. We did a lot of the same things in high school that we do now at the collegiate level.”
Ralston added that the time management skills Worley — who now coaches at the University of North Georgia — imparted on Gainesville High players have been essential in every stage of his career. Through consistent time budgeting and preparation, Ralston said, he is able to “free swing it” once he finally gets onto the golf course.
That was never more evident than during the 2018-2019 Georgia golf season.
After a slow start to the year, Ralston shot a 5-under 139 over two rounds in the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate in Choudrant, Louisiana, to claim fourth individually at the event.
“I think playing well in Louisiana has been big for my whole year, because it kind of got me boosted,” Ralston said. “I’ve just kind of been feeding off that momentum since then.”
He finished the season with five more top 10 finishes in the remaining seven tournaments the Bulldogs participated in, including a first-place mark in the Linger Longer Invitation in Greensboro and a third-place finish in the Athens Regional last week that helped Georgia win the event by seven strokes and earn a place at NCAA nationals.
After winning three tournaments this season and finishing top three on six different occasions, Georgia’s season has already been one of the Bulldogs most successful in recent memory, largely thanks to Ralston’s contribution.
And with nationals just getting underway this weekend, Ralston believes Georgia is just getting started.
“We’ve had a great run so far,” he said. “But we’re not done yet.”