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Gainesville golf going to state with title dreams
Big Red will play familiar course in Jekyll Island on Monday in Class AAAAA meet
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Gainesville High’s Jackson Bishop putts on the 9th green at the Chattahoochee Golf Course during the Region 8-AAAAA golf tournament last month.

Golf state championships

Class AAAAA boys

Pine Lakes Golf Course, Jekyll Island
Local teams competing: Gainesville, Flowery Branch

Class AAAAA girls

Indian Mounds Course,
Jekyll Island
Local teams competing: Gainesville

Class AAAA girls

Nob North Golf Course, Cohutta
Local teams competing: Johnson, Lumpkin County

Class AAA boys

Reunion Country Club, Hoschton
Local teams competing: White County, Buford, North Hall, Jackson County

Class AAA girls

Chateau Elan (Chateau Course), Braselton
Local teams competing: Buford, Banks County, West Hall, White County

Class A boys

Double Oaks Golf Club, Commerce
Local teams competing: Commerce

The Gainesville High boys golf team has done its best to avoid becoming a victim of its own success this season.

It hasn’t been easy for the Red Elephants, who won the Class AAA state championship in 2012 and clinched the Region 8-AAAAA title in April. Now Gainesville has a chance to bring new meaning to the term ‘Perfect 10’.

Gainesville boasts nine wins in 2013, one for each of the nine tournaments it has played in.

The Red Elephants return Monday to the place where their season started, the Pine Lakes Golf Course in Jekyll Island, to try to script a fairy tale ending to their 2013 campaign and secure their second consecutive state championship, this time in Class AAAAA.

State championship meets are Monday for all classifications at various spots across the state.

The magnitude of a possible 10-0 finish is not lost on Red Elephants coach Bryson Worley and his players, but they seem to be taking it all in stride.

“That really is unheard of, it just doesn’t happen,” Worley said. “I told someone that’s kind of like an NBA or NFL team going undefeated during the year.

“Expectations are huge, (but) I think (the players) have handled that really well. We don’t focus on winning or other opponents; it’s all about playing the course,” Worley said. “We’ve just been lucky and kind of looked up at the end and saw ourselves ahead every time.”

“It’s definitely put a target on our back,” said Gainesville senior Pep Brown, a region low-medallist each of the last two seasons. “Coach has said that a lot, but he said that’s a good thing and it keeps us hungry for more victories.

"That’s been our biggest thing, just not getting a big head or anything.”

The rest of Gainesville’s success has fallen into place behind a roster that boasts loads of talent, experience and depth.

Brown is one of three seniors on a squad that brought back all but two players from its 2012 title run.

According to Worley, that depth is the Red Elephants’ biggest asset.

“I have nine (players) on the team and all nine of them will probably play college golf (if they choose to),” he said.

“For the first six tournaments of the year, I think a different guy was either low medalist or challenged for low medalist. That’s the strength we have.”

History speaks well for the Gainesville golfers — boys and girls — as they enter the state tournament in Jekyll Island one year after claiming both Class AAA titles. If there’s one thing the Gainesville programs have proven over the years, it’s that their championship success is anything but a fluke.

The boys team won three state titles in a four-year span from 1978-81, and two more from 1994-96. Although the girls didn’t clinch their first state championship until 2003, they immediately followed it with their second in 2004.

Worley made it a point to tell his players to stop considering themselves state champions just one week after they clinched the title last season, but he acknowledged that the team’s experience in the spotlight can only help the second time around.

“Our lineup for state tournament is the same (as last season), except for one guy,” Worley said. “Most all these guys have experience, and the freshman that’s in the lineup (Spencer Ralston) has played in a lot of high level junior events, so he shouldn’t be overwhelmed or anything.”

The Red Elephants will be in familiar territory as they chase the program’s seventh state championship. Most of Gainesville’s boys played Pine Lakes twice this year, including a one-stroke victory over Greenbrier in the season opener.

Worley said it’s hard to take too much away from that performance since it was so early in the season, and he is simply focused on helping the players figure out the greens.

Brown expects the coastal winds to be a factor, but he believes the unusually harsh spring weather has helped prepare the team for less-than-ideal conditions.

“Something we have always seen at this course is the wind,” Brown said. “That’s always a factor right on the coast, but we’ve been playing in bad weather all year.

“I definitely feel like we’re ready.”

While most of Brown’s teammates were already in Jekyll Island practicing at the course on Friday, he and fellow seniors Reeves Bell and Webber Wycoff had to delay their trip for something even more important than a state championship: their high school graduation ceremony.

Brown rearranged his celebration plans to accommodate Gainesville’s ceremony on Friday, followed by a trip to the beach early this morning. The senior made it clear there would be nothing but sleep in between the two.

“There’s no graduation party for me tonight,” Brown said with a laugh. “I’m leaving at 5 in the morning. We’ve already celebrated earlier in the week, but it’s (still) a fun time.”

If the Red Elephants continue their dominance Monday, Brown and his teammates will have one last bit of celebrating to do.

 

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