At least for one tournament, Gainesville junior golfer Spencer Ralston was happy to put up some high scores.
Playing under stableford scoring rules, Ralston shot a 2-under 70 to earn a tournament-high 46 total points and secure a share of the individual championship at Monday’s Big Red Shootout at Chattahoochee Golf Club in Gainesville.
“It’s so much fun,” he said, following his team’s runner-up finish to Mill Creek. “You’re out there, trying to make birdies, but there’s less pressure on you.”
Stableford rules dictate that players are awarded a point for a bogey, two points for par, four for birdies and eight for an eagle. Ralston shared the spotlight with Mill Creek sophomore Alex Markham, who also earned 46 points on a warm afternoon.
Ralston, who recently won his third straight Hall County championship, hit an eagle on No. 8 and birdied four times to lead the Gainesville A-team to 150 total points. Gainesville B, composed of coach Bryson Worley’s younger players, finished with a final score of 117, which beat out nine other school teams.
Ryan Hogan shot a team-high 32 for Gainesville B, which would have tied for fifth on Gainesville’s top five.
“They’re all knocking on the door,” said Worley. “We have to get the older guys playing well, and the younger guys have to stay relaxed. They’ll have good days and bad days, but with how hard it is to win a tournament, they’ve adjusted really well.”
Worley said his Gainesville team has lost just three tournaments since the Big Red Shootout of 2012. The Red Elephants have earned two wins in four tournaments so far this season, and will compete in The Champions Invitational today and Wednesday.
Behind Markham, Mill Creek (161 points) earned its first tournament win of the season. The Hawks have only been able to play in two tournaments so far, after two other scheduled events were rained out.
Markham made an eagle on No. 13 to fuel his run, while Seth McAfee hit three birdies on the final four holes to earn a competitive 40 points. Luka Karunlic (38 points) and Phillip Beard (37) also had good outings to keep pace with Gainesville’s Lawson King (37) and Nathan Williams (35).
Third-year Mill Creek coach Jeremy York said his team “hasn’t been special,” but did what it needed to win.
“We felt like we were good, but haven’t had the chance to prove it yet,” he said.
Mill Creek won the Region 7-AAAAAA title last year, and should remain the favorite to repeat the feat in 2015 behind Markham, who was recently ranked No. 68 among sophomores across the nation by Golfweek.
Gainesville will now turn its attention to today’s first round in the Capital City Club at Crabapple in Atlanta. The second round will be played on Wednesday at Ansley Golf Club at Settindown Creek in Roswell.
Ralston went par on the front nine at Chattahoochee, then rattled off three birdies in the first six holes on the back nine. King saved par on No. 9 when he one-putted from the fringe after over hitting his approach shot.
“The top of the lineup is really strong, but the younger kids are really coming along,” said Ralston. “Tomorrow, there’ll be a lot harder of a golf course. It’ll be a different test. Today was aggressive every time, but tomorrow, you’ve got to pick your places to be aggressive in.”
North Hall finished with 95 points to earn an 11th-place finish, while White County (87) and Buford (72) came in 12th and 15th, respectively.