Gainesville High’s two golf coaches have a lot of overlap in their approach to building winning programs.
Red Elephants boys coach Bryson Worley and girls coach Clay McDonald always seem to have an ample crop of eager golfers that grew up around the area with clubs in their hands. Even though the kids they coach are already talented, they’re also open to instruction for becoming even better.
Gainesville High players are also closely aligned with the Chattahoochee Golf Club, whether it be from player junior memberships or being part of a family which holds membership at the Chattahoochee Country Club and has course playing privileges.
“Having our players all out here at Chattahoochee is very, very important,” McDonald said. “Just hitting on the driving range and practicing on the putting green will only get you so far.”
The results for both programs this season showed that all the hard work yielded great results for both programs.
In 2013, the Red Elephants boys won all 10 matches they played and went on to a nine-stroke win in the Class AAAAA state meet, their second straight state title. Gainesville’s girls rolled to the Region 8-AAAAA title by a combined 76 strokes at Chattahoochee, then tied for fourth at the state meet in Jekyll Island.
For their efforts, Worley and McDonald are The Times Golf Coaches of the Year.
The Red Elephants boys put on a clinic on consistency this season, highlighted by a marvelous day at state and all four scores counting for the team total at 74, or better. Gainesville’s Lawson King finished in a three-way tie for low score overall at 70.
Worley never had to worry about depth, led by senior and two-time region low-medallist Pep Brown and a strong group of underclassmen.
Along with winning the state title in Class AAAAA, and all 10 meets contested, Worley said his program also beat every eventual 2013 state champion at least once along the way.
In addition to Hall County and Region 8-AAAAA titles, the Red Elephants posted wins at the Georgia-South Carolina Invitational and The Invite they hosted in Gainesville.
Worley said as coach, his role is more one to have the team prepared for any shot or situation that can arise on the course.
“I can’t call a play out there like (football) coach (Bruce) Miller, call a time out or pull a player and put another guy in the game,” Worley said. “I talk with the guys about being prepared more than anything.”
And it helps that all the players get along.
“The chemistry we have is huge,” the boys coach added.
Even though this season was a repeat state title for the boys, it was unique unto itself. When players were ordering state championship rings, Worley was informed by golfers that they didn’t want any reference to back-to-back champions.
The chore of trying to win again will not be easy, even though the Red Elephants appear as stacked as ever looking ahead to 2014. However, they’re also the marked team with everyone aiming to be the one to knock Gainesville from its perch.
“We’re the hunted and no longer the hunter,” Worley said.
McDonald and Worley both insist school administration and family involvement are also critical pieces to their program success. Even though the Lady Red Elephants missed out on repeating as state champs, it wasn’t for lack of effort.
McDonald admires the dedication his girls pour into the program, often practicing and playing until its almost too dark to see. At state, Gainesville juniors Morgan Reece, Madeline Harr and Meg Callahan, and freshman Ashleigh Bishop all carded scores in the 80s to finish tied with Creekview for fourth place at 250.
With three seniors entering their fifth season in the program and the talented sophomore for the Gainesville girls, it should challenge for a return for the state’s top prize.
“We have four girls that are within 5-8 shots of each other almost every match,” McDonald said. “Our depth is very, very good.
“We also have several talented girls from the middle school moving up.”