Class AAA state tournament
Boys: 8:30 a.m. Monday at Chattahoochee Golf Course
Girls: 8:30 a.m. Monday at Chestatee Golf Course
Gainesville High golfers Will Frankum and Parks Brown have played so many rounds at Chattahoochee Golf Course they can't remember how old they were when they first stepped on the grounds.
A win during their next competitive round Monday will provide a memory they'll never forget.
The Red Elephants have the unique opportunity to host this year's Class AAA boys state tournament, an event that is returning to Chattahoochee for the first time since 2002 when Gainesville finished third. The team is hoping for a better finish this year, and the golfers are heading into Monday's event with some momentum after posting a 10-stroke win at the Region 8-AAA championship there.
"It's an awesome advantage," said Gainesville senior Will Frankum, who missed the region tournament because of an illness. "We get to play in our own backyard. We've all grown up playing here."
Brown said the familiarity with the course will allow Gainesville to stay in the hunt regardless of where the organizers place the pins.
"We'll still know what clubs to hit off the par 3s and the right place to hit it in the fairways," Brown said.
Gainesville isn't the only local school with a competitive advantage in Monday's tournament. North Hall, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAA, plays its home matches at Chestatee Golf Course, but considers Chattahoochee its second home.
"I hope it helps," North Hall coach Roger Mills said of his team's knowledge of the course. "Sometimes you can get too familiar with a place that you fail to think all the time. We've got to be careful about that, but local knowledge doesn't hurt at all."
North Hall's home course is hosting Monday's Class AAA girls tournament, which features Region 8-AAA runner-up Gainesville.
"I wouldn't say there's too much home-course advantage," Gainesville coach Clay McDonald said. "We're somewhat familiar with the course; moreso than someone else coming from out of town."
A young team like the Gainesville boys - each features only one senior - McDonald knows his team will have to use its depth and consistency to keep up with title contenders Woodward Academy, Franklin County, Columbus and St. Pius X.
"We expect to play well each time out," McDonald said. "We try and attack each course with our game plan and stay focused all day long. If we can do that, who knows what can happen?"
Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley knows, as his team used that approach to shoot a 305 during the region tournament. That score might not be low enough Monday.
"Any time you get below 300, you have a chance," Worley said. "The hard part is that golf is different because you don't know what you need to do in fourth quarter."
With no scoreboard displayed on the course, players have to rely on their coach for updates, which is something Worley hands out very carefully.
"You need to know who needs to know and who wants to know," he said. "Most of them don't want to know, but occasionally they'll ask late in the round if there is something they need to do."
Those questions could arise Monday considering the difficult field of teams like Spalding, Richmond Academy, St. Pius X, North Hall and Columbus, last year's state champion.
"There's legitimately 10 teams that can win," Worley said.
That makes playing on a familiar course all the more beneficial - or does it?
"You still have to be a good golf team," Mills said. "It'll give (Gainesville) and us some advantages there's no doubt, but you hate to overstate the advantages."
Some advantages both coaches agree on are the golfers sleeping in their own bed and eating "their momma's cooking." Gainesville has an added edge because of its locker room, a place the golfers can settle their minds before starting their rounds.
While those aspects alleviate some distractions, the biggest edge North Hall and Gainesville have is experience, and not the kind that comes from playing hundreds of rounds at Chattahoochee.
"Our kids our tournament tested," said Mills, citing the difficult region and out-of-town events they've competed in. "We've done the right things, they just have to play.
"But we're excited to be there," he added. "Any time you get to play for a state championship, it's going to be fun."
The only thing more enjoyable would be winning it on your home course.
"We don't talk about winning, we talk about preparing," Worley said. "We all know it would be awesome to win here, but we can't get caught up in it."