Monday’s opening round of the Georgia High School Association’s state golf tournament found Hall County’s three representatives battling tough competition and equally tough playing conditions at their respective venues.
At the end of the day, the Gainesville and Cherokee Bluff boys and North Hall’s girls each fought tough through all of it.
And the former and latter teams found themselves within striking distance of the top of the leaderboard in their individual tournaments, while the middle team had a literal long day on the course with one last round to play Tuesday, assuming the expected continued rainy weather allows it.
The Red Elephants find themselves in second place in the Class 6A boys after shooting a team score of 302 behind a 2-over par round of 74 by Shay Mangalat, plus rounds of 75 from Brigham Ralston, 76 from Henry Kopydlowski and 77 from Colin Henderson at Pine Lakes Golf Club in Jekyll Island.
That leaves them nine shots behind the total of 293 posted by leader, and tournament host, Glynn Academy heading into Tuesday’s final round, but Gainesville coach Jason DeJiacomo is still optimistic about his team’s chances, especially given how well the Red Elephants played during inclement weather throughout the second half of Monday’s opening round.
“For the most part, we’ve played through some (bad) weather all year long,” DeJiacomo said. “It doesn’t really bother us. … We probably played better during the bad weather. When it kind of went away, we didn’t finish as well. That’s one of the biggest thing (for Tuesday’s final round). If we can kind of clean up the finish, … we can kind of post a round that will hopefully push the lead group.
“I mean, nine shots is not outside the realm of what we can (make up). That’s what we told our guys (Sunday) during our practice round. You can’t go out and win a tournament on the first day. All you can do is not lose it. So, to give ourselves a chance (Monday) in second play – yeah, we’d like to be closer than nine shots, but we’re still in second. We still have a shot.”
Meanwhile, North Hall got strong rounds of 81 from Lillie Mallis and 87 from Makayla Jones to finish with a 261 in the Class 4A girls tournament at Braelinn Golf Club in Peachtree City.
Morgan Whidden also shot 93 for the Lady Trojans, who find themselves eight shots behind leader Westminster (253) and just four shots behind second-place North Oconee (257), with third place and host Starr’s Mill even closer in range.
And like DeJiacomo, North Hall coach Rodney House was particularly pleased with how his team played during steady rain throughout the day, and is optimistic of the Lady Trojans’ chances to stay in contention with more rain forecast for Tuesday’s final round.
“I like where we’re at,” House said. “We had a lot of rain (Monday), so for us to put up the numbers we did (Monday), I was very proud of our girls. … The course we’re on, the greens were in great shape when we left (Monday). Some of the fairways were starting to get bogged down, which could be a big difference. But as long as the greens aren’t ponding (Tuesday), we should be able to go.
“I warned my girls (prior to the first round), ‘Be ready for anything. And like I said, I’m very proud of how they came out and played.”
The weather conditions almost certainly affected the Cherokee Bluff boys the most among the Hall County contingent, with a 1-hour, 45-minute suspension of play midway through the round making for a long, grueling day for every team in the Class 4A boys tournament at Whitewater Country Club in Fayetteville.
The Bears eventually completed their round and found themselves in ninth place after a collective round of 333, with Caleb Vancil being the only individual to break 80 on the day with a round of 79, good for tie for 15th-place individually.
But while Cherokee Bluff enters the Tuesday’s final round well behind the lead pack of first-place Lovett, second-place North Oconee and third-place Westminster, head coach Brian Pope points out there are plenty of goals still attainable for his team.
Most notably, the Bears are only six strokes back of sixth place, which is something Pope expects his team to shoot for, assuming the weather allows play to continue Tuesday.
“There were some good numbers put up, which wasn’t easy because it was wet, cold and rainy,” Pope said. “So, kudos to those who played well. Obviously, some of the scores are out of our reach. But I told my kids, ‘Let’s try to finish in the top six.’ We can still move up about two or three spots. I just hope we get a chance to play (Tuesday).”