EVANS – Gainesville’s bid for a third straight state boys golf title became a battle of winning tradition versus home course advantage.
The Red Elephants played a solid round, but couldn’t trump the local teams.
Gainesville fell short of the three-peat, shooting a 295 to finish third behind course hosts Greenbrier and Lakeside-Evans at the Class AAAAA state tournament Monday at Bartram Trail Golf Club.
The Red Elephants ended up four strokes behind the Wolfpack and the Panthers, both nearby Evans teams that play regular-season home events at Bartram Trail. The rival schools played a sudden-death playoff to determine the state champion, with Greenbrier ending up on top.
“Hats off to Greenbrier and Lakeside, they played pretty well,” Gainesville coach Bryson Worley said. “It’s a good story on their part.
“They both play out here, so it’s a big deal for them.”
What became a head-to-head shootout for the home teams also served as a disappointing end to the Red Elephants’ season.
Statistically, Gainesville played well on the difficult Bartram Trail course. Lawson King placed third individually with a 69, Jackson Bishop and Nathan Williams each carded 75 and Spencer Ralston rounded the team’s qualifying scores with a 78.
Nevertheless, it was hard for a team that rarely loses to be satisfied with a third-place finish.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Bishop, who concludes his high school career with the tournament. “It was just a hard day, hard course. The greens were really firm, and we just didn’t execute.
“We played really well, just not as well as we can.”
King, last year’s state runner-up, spent little time away from the top of the leaderboard, shooting a 33 on the front nine, birdying three times to drop as low as 4-under on the day.
He added another birdie and a bogey for a 36 on the back nine.
“He felt like he had a little bit to prove,” Worley said. “He came out and played really well today. He was at 4-under at once point and ended up 3-under.”
Williams had an enormous back nine after a rocky start to the day, shooting a 33 to offset his front-nine 42. It was enough to tie Bishop for the second-lowest score of the day for Gainesville.
Ralston shot 38 twice, and Bishop recorded 36 on the front nine.
Grant Lasseter’s 78 wasn’t included in the Red Elephants’ score, but featured an impressive bogey-eagle combination on No. 1 and 2. He shot a 5 on the first hole, only to come back and take care of 2 in three strokes.
“I thought we were prepared and I think we knew the course pretty well,” Worley said. “We just didn’t play it very well today. That’s just happens in golf. It’s hard.”
Lakeside-Evans’ Hunter Dunagan played like a veteran of the course, cruising to low-medalist honors with an impressive 64 on the day. He was a stroke behind King through nine before shooting 30 the rest of the way.
North Atlanta’s Winston Mershad was second overall at 68. His team finished fourth at 303.
Flowery Branch, which qualified for state through sectionals, shot a team score of 346, led by Koby Washington’s 83.
With the state tournament complete, Gainesville’s golfers venture into the offseason phase of the year. Its two seniors, Lasseter and Bishop, will begin collegiate careers in the fall with North Georgia and Western Carolina, respectively.
The rest of the Red Elephants will continue to communicate with the coaching staff in the coming months, when they compete individually in tournaments throughout the area.
“We’ll sit down with them in about a week and do their individual plan and individual goals,” Worley said. “They’ll give me the tournament schedule for the summer, and see what we need to improve on.”
For the Lady Red Elephants, Morgan Reece led with a 79, good for a fifth-place finish.
The team finished with a score of 248, 24 strokes behind state champion Cambridge. Meg Callahan shot an 84 for Gainesville, and Ashleigh Bishop finished with an 85.