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Gainesville leads after day 1 at Hall County Golf Championships
Flowery Branch’s Sean McKnight watches his approach shot to the 9th green during a soggy first day of the Hall County Golf Championships at Royal Lakes Country Club Monday afternoon.

Hall County Golf Championships

Girls team scores

1. Gainesville, 77

2. West Hall 84

3. North Hall, 98

4. Johnson, 106

5. Chestatee, 118

6. Flowery Branch, 129

Boys team scores

1. Gainesville, 150

2. North Hall, 156

3. Flowery Branch, 162

4. Johnson, 165

5. West Hall, 191

6. Chestatee, 219

East Hall and Lakeview Academy also competing

Girls top individual scores

1. Morgan Reece, Gainesville, 37

2. Malorie Smith, West Hall, 38

3. Meg Callahan, Gainesville, 40

4. Madeline Harr, Gainesville, 44

5. Olivia Davis, West Hall, 46

Boys top individual scores

1. Luke James, Johnson, 35

2. Parks Brown, Gainesville, 36

T3. Grant Lasseter, Gainesville, 37

T3. Ryan Matthews, North Hall, 37

T4. Jackson Bishop, Gainesville, 38

T4. Eric Little, Flowery Branch, 38

T5. Pep Brown, Gainesville, 39

T5. Kameron Williams, Flowery Branch, 39

T5. John Jacobs, Lakeview, 39

T5. Hunter Young, North Hall, 39

FLOWERY BRANCH — After two consecutive birdies to open her round, Morgan Reece scored a double bogey on No. 11 on Monday at the Hall County Golf Championships at Royal Lakes Country Club.

The Gainesville junior shrugged it off and posted the girls low round of the day — a one-over-par 37 — to lead the defending champion Lady Red Elephants to a seven-point lead after the opening day of the 25th annual tournament.

It was a good day for Gainesville as the boys, also defending champs, took a six-stroke lead after nine holes, although Johnson’s Luke James led all golfers with a one-under-par 35.

Play will resume at 4 p.m. today with the final round.

Reece, who edged out West Hall’s Malorie Smith by one shot, didn’t spend much time worrying about the one bad hole.

“I pretty much forgot about it,” Reece said.

The sophomore added that she and the rest of the Lady Red Elephants, who posted three of the day’s top five scores (including Meg Callahan at 40 and Madeline Harr at 44), didn’t worry about the weather either.

It remained gloomy for most of the round, although the rain held off until the majority of the golfers were finishing their final holes of the day.

It certainly didn’t effect the Gainesville boys, which had four golfers card scores under 40 to lead 150-156 at the midway point over North Hall.

“We don’t use it as an excuse,” said Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley of the conditions. “We did well today.”

Parks Brown shot par 36 to lead the Red Elephants, with Grant Lasseter (37), Jackson Bishop (38) and Pep Brown (39) just behind.

Lasseter, a sophomore, epitomized a steady approach on the opening day as he hit eight of nine greens and par on eight of nine holes.

“I hit the ball well,” Lasseter said. “We just played the course today. We played well as a team.”

Worley likes having so much depth on his team, the only one to have its four top golfers all shoot under 40.

“We look at it like everybody’s a No. 1 seed,” said Worley, who added that he was even able to give his players more freedom to take risks. “That’s a good thing about being deep.”

Still, while Gainesville might have the halfway lead as a team, James put himself in position to grab individual honors if he plays as well as he did on the first day.

“He’s a good player, I’d say he’s the favorite,” Worley said. “Hopefully we can get some guys to drop some putts and catch him.”

North Hall’s top scorer, Ryan Matthews, finished two behind James, but the Trojans also used solid depth to stay close, with two golfers shooting under 40.

Flowery Branch, led by Eric Little (38), ended the day 12 shots back of Gainesville with a score of 162, just ahead of Johnson at 165.

While the boys championship is wide open entering the final round, on the girls side West Hall (84) and Gainesville separated from the rest, with third-place North Hall (98) 21 shots behind.

The Lady Red Elephants are in good position to continue their dominance of the county championships, an event that they put a lot of significance on.

“There’s only one year we haven’t won it,” said Gainesville girls coach Clay McDonald. “So that sticks out in your mind.”

Reece, who shot a 90 over the two-day duration of 18 holes in the tournament last year as a freshman, will be looking to replicate her opening round — minus one hole — to deliver yet another title to Gainesville.

Because for Reece, the team score is what really matters.

“I knew that our team had a lot of potential,” Reece said. “When I’m out there I try to remember who I’m playing for. I don’t want to let down my team.”

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