When Lumpkin County’s Aaron George hit his second shot on the par-5, No. 15 precariously close to the waterline and about 20 yards from the green on Achasta’s course, most watching wondered how he could possibly save himself from dropping further back from the leader in the Region 7-AAA tournament. However, his coach, Jeff Fleming, probably just broke out into a big smile, knowing full well what was about to happen.
Turns out, coach was right.
George, a junior, played the ball phenomenally out of a tough spot, pitching the shot to within 20 feet of the cup. Next, he made a high-pressure birdie putt to tie the leader with only three holes left to play, and went on to win the Region 7-AAA individual title by one stroke with a 69.
For his efforts, George is The Times’ 2010 Boys Golfer of the Year. He finished the season with a stroke average of 71.4 for 18 holes.
“Aaron has an incredible short game,” Fleming said. “On No. 15, he hit it into a tough spot and managed to get up and down for birdie.”
George said that concentration on the short game comes from his father, Alan, who played in college at Stephen F. Austin University, in Texas.
“My dad says that it’s the short game that will save you the most strokes,” George said.
Of course, George doesn’t neglect any part of his game: he putts, chips, works on his iron game and hits on the driving range, as well as fitting in nine holes each day now that time permits.
Still, it’s the bread and butter of chipping and putting that defines his game, as well as led to three straight birdies on the back nine during the region championships on his home course in Dahlonega.
At region, his last hurdle was nailing a putt on No. 17 to save par and keep his cushion over Johnson’s Josh Foster, who finished second (70).
The average day for George on the golf course is practically an all-day affair.
In fact, he drives to keep his time divided up in terms of priority. The day starts with an hour of putting, followed by 2 1/2 hours of chipping and pitch shots. After that, he ventures onto the range to drive and hit long irons for an hour, followed by nine holes to put it all together. If time and daylight permits, then it’s back to practicing his chip shots.
“Aaron puts in the hours practicing,” Fleming said. “He works harder than anyone at golf I’ve ever known.
“I’m pretty sure he’d rather be practicing than playing.”
Still, George is going to test himself against other top amateurs this summer in a quest to increase his visibility to college coaches. His first event is the Exxon BFI Championship in Greenville, Miss. Before the summer is done, he’ll play in U.S. Junior events and American Junior qualifiers in Texas, Georgia and Mississippi, with possible dates in South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.
However, hopping around to tournaments in different locations isn’t anything new to Lumpkin County’s top golfer, who played in his first tournament, the Pepsi Little People’s golf championships, at age 3. Neither is setting up shop in new hometowns.
As the son of a hospital executive, George was born in Houston but moved to Greenville, Miss. as an infant. Since then, he’s lived in small towns all over the state, including St. Mary’s, Jesup, Monroe and now Dahlonega, which is where he’s called home for the past four years.
One staple that George always found moving from city to city was sports. As a kid, it was baseball that dominated most of his time, even playing travel baseball up to the age of 13, which is when he had an accident sliding into the catcher and part of the bone in his leg chipped off into his knee cap.
He couldn’t play baseball for six months after that accident, but could continue playing golf right away. He took that as a sign that golf was his best opportunity to make it on to college and possibly a professional career, too.
“Aaron is just a very good athlete,” Fleming said. “He could probably play wide receiver on the football team if he wanted to.”
With talk of prospective colleges starting to enter the equation, he says that the University of Georgia is one of his favorites.
George even has the Bulldogs’ fight song playing on his cell phone for incoming callers to hear. He says that spending six years growing up in Monroe, only 20 miles west of Athens, his family was surrounded by Georgia graduates and fans.
However, George has one more season playing at Lumpkin County before heading off to the next level, and his coach can’t wait to see what he has to come.
“It’s just been very special to watch him,” Fleming added. “He’s a highly competitive golfer.”