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High school golf: Boys, girls teams gear up for a challenging Hall County championships
Gainesville's Henry Kopydlowski watches his tee shot during the second round of the Hall County championships March 29, 2022 at Chicopee Woods. Photo by Paul Sasso MV Photo Concepts

It would be hard for Gainesville’s boys to top their feat from last year’s Hall County Golf Championship.

Yet after setting a record with a two-day total of 4-under par 284, good for a 20-shot victory and the program’s 27th county title, the Red Elephants hope to do just that for this year’s tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Chattahoochee Golf Club.

And the key, as first-year Gainesville coach Jason DeJiacomo sees it, can be summed up in one word – consistency.

“Coming off our win at Apple Mountain (earlier this month), if they play like that, if they’re all firing pretty much all at the same time pretty well, we’ll do well,” DeJiacomo said. “I think there’s a little bit left under the hood that they could’ve reached even in that event, but for us, I think consistency’s going to be the key.

“We shot 300 in our first event. We shot 277 in our second event. That’s a big gap. Obviously, the courses aren’t the same. But from a talent level, we’re as strong, I would say, as pretty much any team in the state. When we’re playing well, we’re going to play well. … When we don’t have our A game, then it’s tough.”

DeJiacomo’s got a point about his team’s potential, with such firepower as Colin Henderson, last year’s individual county champ at North Hall before transferring to Gainesville, reigning Apple Mountain Invitational champion Brigham Ralston and recently-crowned Big Red Invitational champ Henry Kopydlowski, who is averaging a score of 71 through three events so far this season.

But while the Red Elephants’ down moments haven’t been that bad, such as their runner-up finish by a single point under the Stableford scoring system to Milton in the Big Red Invitational, DeJiacomo is looking for more from his team, from the big three down to other scorers like Shay Mangalat and Nick Green.

“The biggest thing right now is trying to figure out how to manage those rounds,” DeJiacomo said. “That’s what we’re doing pretty much all this week (in practice). We hosted our home event, and conditions were pretty bad with all the rain. It wasn’t the best, but to come out losing by one to Milton put a little fire under some butts for them.

“We’re working towards not just being better, but trying to be the best in the state. It’s a constant progression making sure you’re always working. … We have every chance and every ability to win. It’s just figuring out how to get them all fired up at the same time.”

If the Red Elephants are to bring home another team title, they’ll have to earn it.

Several contenders, like Lakeview Academy, North Hall and last year’s runner-up Cherokee Bluff are ready to challenge Gainesville for the title.

Lakeview Academy, in particular, is off to a solid start, including winning East Hall’s Valhalla Cup tournament and finishing fourth at Apple Mountain behind seniors Carter Kontour, Chandler Lovell and Tanner Stephens.

“Anytime you get everybody in the county competing against each other in the same place, it’s fun,” Lions coach Tyler Sanders said. “We’ve competed against some of the other teams in some other tournaments recently, but not everybody at once.

“We’ve had a couple of good showings, and our guys have been working really hard in practice, just getting better every day.”

The girls tournament also figures to be very competitive, with North Hall looking to defend last year’s title against such challengers as last year’s runner-up Cherokee Bluff, which features the 2022 individual champ Alisa Pressley, and Flowery Branch.

The Lady Trojans return two of their three scorers from last year in Makayla Jones and Lillie Mallis, while Morgan Whidden should provide even more depth after a late surge last season.

“I pretty much have my team that finished third in the state (in Class 3A) last year,” North Hall girls coach Rodney House said. “I would think we’d have a pretty good shot. Cherokee Bluff has Alisa, who’s really good. … I’ve not seen everybody. We’ve missed playing Flowey Branch early on, but I’ve seen some of their scores.

“We played (last) weekend. ... We have a 36-hole tournament this weekend, so we’re going to play a lot of golf. So we should be getting a little better, hopefully, as we go.”

Other teams will be simply looking to improve, like Gainesville, which didn’t have enough varsity golfers to compete as a team this year, but will bring a full team of three young competitors into their first county tournament in freshmen Ragan Allgood, Claire Gaddy and Olivia Clemons.

“None of them had varsity experience until this year,” Gainesville girls coach Brad Prestidge said.  “So it’ll be a learning curve for them to play in the Hall County Championship for the first time ever.”

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