Hall County Championship
at Royal Lakes Golf & Country Club
1. Spencer Ralston Gainesville 34
T2. Nathan Williams Gainesville 36
T2. Tanner Merck Flowery Branch 36
T2. Bartley Forrester North Hall 36
5. Lawson King Gainesville 37
T6. Ryan Hogan Gainesville 38
T6. Deuce Gibbs Flowery Branch 38
8. Shane Burdette Johnson 40
9, Andrew Jackson Flowery Branch 41
10. Brady Holcomb Gainesville 41
1. Gainesville 145
2. Flowery Branch 161
3. North Hall 167
4. East Hall 182
5. Johnson 183
6. Chestatee 192
7. Lakeview 202
8. West Hall 227
1. Madison Stewart Johnson 47
T2. Macie Hurst Flowery Branch 49
T2. Kristin Waters Johnson 49
4. Juliana Towns Gainesville 51
5. Sydney Dunigan Flowery Branch 52
1. Johnson 149
2. Flowery Branch 160
3. Gainesville 176
4. West Hall 192
5. Chestatee 193
6. North Hall 194
Just two events into a new season, the Gainesville High boys golf program is off to a fantastic start.
Coming off a win at the Apple Mountain Invitational on Saturday, the Red Elephants shot to the front of the leaderboard through nine holes of the Hall County Championship at the Royal Lakes Golf & Country Club on Monday in Flowery Branch.
With Gainesville’s top four scores totaling 1-over 145, it leads by 16 shots over second-place Flowery Branch and 22 strokes against third-place North Hall.
The three clear leaders for the Red Elephants program in 2015 (junior Spencer Ralston, and seniors Nathan Williams and Lawson King) all came in at 37, or better, with one round in the books. With rain forecast for today’s final round, those scores could stand.
“We have three older guys, who are all tested and playing very well,” said Gainesville coach Bryson Worley.
While it wasn’t as flashy as the 11-under Gainesville put together in the first round of Hall County in 2014, the Red Elephants’ strength rests in his seasoned veterans with a group of young golfers pushing to have scores counted toward the total as well.
Playing in the county championship is important for the Red Elephants, who have a road-heavy schedule with tournaments across the state during the season. This is the only chance Gainesville will see some of the other teams right here in its own back yard. And so far, the Red Elephants are playing up to their aspirations.
“It’s super important for us to do well here at the county championship,” said Gainesville senior Nathan Williams, who opened with a 36. “It’s a fun event to play and we really enjoy getting out here at Royal Lakes.”
Tied for second after the first nine, Williams rebounded from a slow start with a pair of birdies on his final four holes. On No. 5, Williams hit his second shot to within three feet and tapped in for birdie. His eagle putt on No. 3 lipped out, but Williams still saved birdie.
“I feel like I played pretty well today,” said Williams. He’s tied at even par with Flowery Branch’s Tanner Merck and North Hall’s Bartley Forrester.
Firing a 2-under for the first round, the Gainesville junior Ralston is in the lead by himself.
Even though Ralston said his shots were off a bit to the left early, he still finished his round bogey free. The University of Georgia verbal pledge said his distance off the tee has become more consistent as he’s grown into his body.
On No. 6, he put his confidence in his tee shot on display, driving just to the right of the green on the par 4. He was able to get up and down from there for birdie. On the second par 5 of the day on No. 3, he hit an eight iron on his second shot to the green and two-putted for birdie.
On No. 9, a risky second uphill shot over water to the green, he carried it with a fairway shot to within about 15 feet. He two-putted for par.
On the girls’ front, Johnson is in contention for its second Hall County Championship. The Lady Knights opened with a first-round 149, followed by Flowery Branch (160) and Gainesville (176). The Lady Red Elephants have won all but one Hall County championship since it began in 2000.
Johnson’s Madison Stewart carded a 47 to hold the overall lead, followed by a second-place tie between Flowery Branch’s Macie Hurst and Kristin Waters of 49.