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State high school golf: Hall trio improves play during Tuesday's final round
Gainesville boys golf-State.png
Gainesville's boys golf team poses with its trophy after finishing as runner-up in the GHSA's Class 6A State Championship tournament May 23, 2023 at the Pines Golf Club in Jekyll Island. Photo by Mitch Ralston For The Times

There wasn’t a lot of movement in terms of the team standings for Hall County’s three representatives in Tuesday’s action in the GHSA’s State Golf Championships.

However, Gainesville’s boys, North Hall’s girls and Cherokee Bluff’s boys all had a better day during the final rounds in their respective classification tournaments than they did a day earlier.

Gainesville rallied on the back nine to close the gap on first-day leader Glynn Academy in the Class 6A boys tournament at Pine Lakes Golf Club in Jekyll Island.

However, that late charge came a little too late, as the Red Elephants wound up as state runner-up for the second straight season after finishing with a two-day score of 596, five strokes behind the host Red Terrors.

North Hall also had a better second round on Tuesday, and maintained its fourth-place standing in the Class 4A girls tournament at Braelinn Golf Club in Peachtree City.

 A few miles away at Whitewater Country Club in Fayetteville, Cherokee Bluff was able to rebound from a rough opening round Monday and climb a spot higher in the standings in the Class 4A boys tournament, finishing eighth at 661.

Tuesday’s round in the 6A boys tournament followed the opposite script from Monday’s opening round, which saw Gainesville get off to a strong start, only to drop off late and fall nine strokes back of the lead.

This time, the Red Elephants started slowly, but began to heat up on the back nine behind Brigham Ralston and Henry Kopydlowski, who each finished with an even-par round of 72 to finish fourth and seventh respectively for the tournament, and cut the deficit from the start of the day nearly in half.

However, the first-day hole and the slow start to the final round were just too much for Gainesville to overcome, despite a solid team effort that saw Shay Mangalat place 11th overall following a Tuesday score of 76 and Colin Henderson finishing 15th after a round of 77.

“On the back side, we ended up making a little run,” said first-year Gainesville coach Jason DeJiacomo. “Glynn Academy ended up stumbling a little bit, but not enough for us to catch up. The hole was just a little bit too big for us to get out of.”

Despite coming up short of their quest for the state title, DeJiacomo said finishing as state runner-up for the second straight season after taking second in Class 7A in 2022 wouldn’t diminish what the Red Elephants accomplished this spring.

And with Henderson the only senior among the team’s top three scorers from the state tournament, Gainesville should be in good position to make another serious run at the title this time next year.

“I told the guys after we got done that I’m very proud of all of them,” DeJiacomo said. “It’s definitely one of the hardest-working golf teams I’ve ever coached. … They can’t take anything bad away from this season. As much as we would’ve liked to win state, to come in second only five shots back is still a testament to how much they’re willing to work and how much they want it.

“Now we’ve got a theme for next year. Let’s see what happens. Our three low (scorers) from (Monday and Tuesday) are all coming back. We’re only losing Colin. It’ll be hard to fill his shoes, but we’ll do our best … to make another run next year.”

North Hall’s girls, meanwhile, saw general improvement across the board during their second round on Tuesday, with MaKayla Jones shooting 80 and Lillie Mallis carding an 83 to both finish in the top 10 individually over 36 holes.

Mallis wound up seventh overall at 164, while Jones was right behind her in eighth at 167, but despite that improvement, along with that from No. 3 player Morgan Whidden, the depth of eventual champion North Oconee, runner-up Westminster and third-place Starr’s Mill kept the Lady Trojans in fourth place in the team standings.

“We got out and played really good,” North Hall coach Rodney House said. “The teams ahead of us got hot. … We tried, but we just couldn’t get any traction.

“MaKayla had three birdies on the back nine. … Lillie got off to a great start and just kind of maintained the rest of the time. Morgan was back and forth a little bit and played probably about where I thought she would. … I was very proud of the way the girls played.”

After battling tough weather conditions in Monday’s opening round, Cherokee Bluff’s boys were just happy the rain held off and allowed the second round to be played Tuesday.

And that enthusiasm paid off with the Bears climbing up one spot in the team standings to finish eighth overall with a two-day score of 661.

Sophomore T.J. Harris had the low round of the day for Cherokee Bluff with a 76, which left in a three-way tie for 28th individually that included Bears teammate Caleb Vancil at 163, while Jackson Wyrick wound up tied for 37th at 166.

“I’m really glad we got to play (Tuesday) because we weren’t sure about what the weather was going to be,” Cherokee Bluff boys coach Brian Pope said. “Just not ending the season with (what happened Monday was important). This gives us something (more positive) to end the season on.”

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