FLOWERY BRANCH — The Gainesville golf team was forced to battle the elements in order to continue their reign of dominance over the Hall County Championships. But the results weren’t the least bit weathered when the annual tournament concluded.
Following an early suspension of play during Monday’s first round due to rain, the Red Elephants returned to Royal Lakes Golf Course on Tuesday and swept the competition for the third straight year by winning both the boys and girls titles.
The Gainesville boys ended the windy second day with a tournament-record 293, while the girls tallied a 251 to claim county rule for the sixth year in a row.
The record-setting day for the boys included four of the five best scores on the leaderboard, including low-medalist Spencer Ralston’s 72. They defeated second-place Flowery Branch by 29 strokes.
The Red Elephants were even-par after the first day, which ended midway through the front nine after Monday’s rain rolled through Hall County. They were 1-over through the front nine and completed the tournament 5-over.
“The thing I like about them is that they’re all perfectionists,” Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley said. “They kept asking ‘how’s so-and-so doing?’ It’s not because they’re not worried about what they’re shooting — they’re making sure everybody is playing well.”
Ralston secured his first individual title on his very first try. The freshman shot a 36 in each round, seemingly unfazed by the varying weather conditions over the two-day span.
He edged teammate Nathan Williams by a single stroke after Williams shot a 37 in Round 1. Three Gainesville golfers, Ralston included, were tied at 36 through the first nine.
“We’re just strong as a team, so it took a lot of the pressure off,” Ralston said. “If it was a junior tournament, it would be different. I was just playing golf, really. I was just trying to help my team out and make my score count.”
The other two golfers, Pep Brown and Lawson King, each shot a 38 to finish at 74.
The only non-Gainesville golfer to challenge the Red Elephants atop the leaderboard was Flowery Branch’ Kameron Williams, who carded a 74 after tallying a 36 in Round 2.
“When you look at the board, we’re pretty deep,” Worley said. “They’re used to it in practice. We talk a lot about practice being so tough, and qualifying is so hard. It’s almost like they get to relax at a tournament, sometimes.”
The Gainesville girls’ championship title also included a low-medalist, as Meg Callahan shot a second-round 39 to finished the tournament with an 80. The score was her personal best at Royal Lakes.
Her closest competitor was teammate and 2012 Hall County champion Morgan Reece, who shot a 42 in both rounds to finish second overall with an 84.
“I thought with the conditions yesterday, I wasn’t expecting myself to do as well as I usually would,” Callahan said. “Some of the greens were kind of firm, but for the most part it was pretty good.”
Gainesville benefitted from a ruling change this season that incorporated each girls team’s third-lowest scorer into the team standings, as opposed to just the top two scorers in prior years. The new system allowed Madeline Harr’s 87 to also be included in the Lady Red Elephants’ team score. She finished third overall.
“That rule, I’m glad we’re using that,” Gainesville girls coach Clay McDonald said. “It makes it a little more of a team effort, as opposed to just having one low score, as it has been in the years past. It’s a good rule — I knew it was going to work in our favor a lot of times this year.”
The only other girls golfer to crack 90 was West Hall’s Malorie Smith, the 2011 county champion, who carded an 89 to place fourth. North Hall’s Haley Twiggs bounced back from a 48 in the first round to shoot 44 in the second round and place fifth overall with 91.
Gainesville finished 43 strokes ahead of second-place North Hall. West Hall finished third with 307 points, followed by Johnson (318), Chestatee (354) and Flowery Branch (366).
On the boys side, North Hall scored 349 to place third, highlighted by Cord Sanford’s hole-in-one on No. 8 using a 7-iron. The ball bounced once a few feet in front of the hole before sinking.
Lakeview finished fourth with 367 points, followed by Chestatee (388), Johnson (416), East Hall (420) and West Hall (446).