By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High school golf: Gainesville boys gearing up for run at first state championship since 2013
Red Elephants finished second in Class 7A in 2022 with individual champion Ryan Davidson
Gainesville's Brigham Ralston chips to the green on No. 13 during the Hall County championships on March 22, 2023 at the Chattahoochee Golf Club. Photo by Lee Heard For The Times

Gainesville’s Brigham Ralston feels at ease when thinking about the state championship meet next week. 

He knows the entire Red Elephants boys program has worked all season to have this opportunity on the big stage. 

Starting Monday, the Red Elephants will look to conquer the top talent in Class 6A with two rounds and 18 holes each day on the Pine Lakes Course at the Jekyll Island Golf Club. 

Gainesville’s boys are looking for its first state championship since going back to back in 2012-2013, and are looking to build off a strong state runner-up finish in 2022 in the Class 7A state meet at the Chattahoochee Golf Club. 

The way Ralston sees it, the Red Elephants will have to put an emphasis on playing ‘point A to point B golf’ on the state championship course with tight fairways that’s nestled up against the coast. 

And this won’t just be a school function among teammates who only share a common bond — they’re best friends. 

“We’ve basically lived our lives together for the last 10 years,” Ralston said. “Our chemistry on this team is great.” 

His coach Jason DeJiacomo agrees. 

In his first season as a high school coach, DeJiacomo feels good about this group that qualified for state by winning the Area championship on April 18 at Apple Mountain in Cornelia. 

“These guys play for each other and don’t want to let the rest of the team down,” DeJiacomo said. “They’re all like brothers.”

Giving Gainesville its best chance at a state championship is its depth with Ralston, Henry Kopydlowski, Colin Henderson and Shay Mangalat as the four frontrunners with the program that boasts significant depth. 

At the Area championship, it was Kopydlowski who was the star, shooting a round of 67 en route to a team total of 3-over-par 291.

However, Mangalat and Henderson each came through in the clutch on No. 18 to preserve a three-shot win against John’s Creek, DeJiacomo said. 

Mangalat kept his tee shot right down the middle of the fairway to finish with a 73, while Henderson finished the final hole strong to shoot an even-par 72. 

Sitting about 25 yards from the pin on the short par-4 18th, Henderson stuck the ball about six feet from the pin, despite being in an unfavorable spot to hit from around the bunker. 

“We needed those to cap it off,” DeJiacomo said. 

This season, Gainesville had to find its identity after defending state champion Ryan Davidson graduated and is now playing at Liberty University. 

Gainesville’s coach is pleased with his squad’s results, which includes a Hall County championship, second-place at the Big Red Invitational and third-place spot at the prestigious Larry Nelson Invitational. 

In 2023, the Red Elephants had their best showing with an 11-under-par score to win at Apple Mountain early in the year. 

At the state meet, DeJiacomo doesn’t have any concerns about his squad being ready for the moment, having played consistently against the top talent across the state. 

What makes the course at Jekyll Island particularly tricky, he said, is the amount of native flora lining the fairways that could make for a long day with too many errant tee shots. 

“We don’t have to only play smart, but also attack certain holes,” DeJiacomo said. “The first six holes will be hard, then it will get easier for the final 12 holes.”

Either way, Gainesville’s boys will have to make their way around the course twice. 

Since the course where the state meet will be contested is by the beach, some of the players' families are using it as a mini vacation to get in the sun, sand and ocean waves. 

However, Gainesville will treat it like a business trip, even though they’ll have time to unwind, too. 

“We want to go down there and win, but we also want to look back on the memories we’ve made and say we enjoyed the entire process,” DeJiacomo said. 

Friends to Follow social media