Region 8-AAA championships
1. Franklin County 165
2. Gainesville 173
3. West Hall 190
4. North Hall 195
5. Lumpkin County 200
6. Johnson 205
7. White County 206
8, Chestatee 217
9. Stephens County 226
10. Oconee County 237
11. Walnut Grove 253
12. Monroe Area 264
13. Lanier 296
DAHLONEGA - Franklin County's Jessica Welch single-handedly dominated the Region 8-AAA championships Thursday at the Achasta Golf Course in Dahlonega.
With each hole, Welch widened her lead and finished with a 4-under par 68, winning by 16 strokes over her nearest competitor: LeeAnn Noble (84) of Gainesville.
Welch's score combined with teammate Sarah Schyck's 97 were enough for the Lady Lions to combine for the top two scores (165) and earn their fourth straight Region 8-AAA championship.
Franklin County won the state title in Class AAA in 2008 and 2009.
"I was very impressed with how our girls played today," Franklin County coach Mike Schyck said. "We've worked hard all season to improve as a team and it has showed."
Gainesville (173) finished second and is going to state for the third consecutive season. The state tournament is May 2 at the Chestatee Golf Course in Dawsonville.
Noble leads a young Gainesville program that fields three freshmen: Meg Callahan, Morgan Reece and Madeline Harr.
Callahan finished second at region for the Lady Red Elephants with an 89.
"I feel great about how we played today," Gainesville coach Clay McDonald said. "We have a senior and three freshmen, and they were completely focused on our game plan and stayed focused on playing just one hole at a time.
"We just try to stay in the moment on the course."
Lumpkin County's Morgan Wood (89) is the at-large qualifier headed to state.
There was nothing more impressive about this sunny afternoon than what Welsh, a Jacksonville University signee, was able to accomplish. This marked the first time in her career to come in under 70.
The reason for her amazing round of golf was the fact she pared 13 holes, birdied three holes and only put one bogey on her scorecard.
This is Welch's first individual region title, but fourth time going to state with her team.
"We knew (Welch) is really talented and it just came down to what their No. 2 was going to do to win region," McDonald said.
Welch wanted to play it safe and just focus on hitting fairways and greens, but she played a chip shot 20 yards from the pin over the sand trap in front of the No. 6 green, which rolled over a ridge on the green and into the cup for an eagle.
On her second shot, she opted for a hybrid wedge that went 190 yards and came to rest in front of the trap, which went against her initial inclination to try to go for the green in two.
"I thought I may have hit it too hard at first," Welch said. "Making an eagle was definitely exciting."
The only bogey on the day for Welch came on No. 4 when she three-putted. She missed a birdie putt on No. 18.
Meanwhile, Noble had her eyes set on bogeys all day. Pars were just a bonus with the goal of coming in low enough to help send Gainesville back to state, which worked out to perfection.
After graduating two seniors from last year's team, Noble never had expectations when the season started.
However, things came together nicely during the season with a group of freshmen who really took to the game.
"I'm extremely excited to be headed back to state," Noble said. "We have a much different team this season, and it definitely doesn't feel the same as last year when we had two seniors and two juniors."
Tied with Wood for third was Gainesville's Callahan at 89. Harr was fifth overall with a 92.
The Lady Red Elephants are pleased to be playing in state at Chestatee, one of the team's favorite courses.
Gainesville played a match against North Hall earlier in the season at the same course.
"Chestatee is a true test of golf," McDonald said.