FLOWERY BRANCH — You could almost see the steam coming off of Gainesville’s Camryn Cole as she turned in her scorecard after completing her first round at the Hall County Championships at Royal Lakes.
Angered by her poor finish, Cole handed in her card which read 43, seven strokes better than her closest opponent, West Hall’s Natalie Mathias.
“I was doing well until the last three holes,” said Cole, the defending Hall County and Region 7-AAA champion. “When you meltdown that bad it’s pretty disappointing.”
Going 2-over through her first six holes, Cole’s “meltdown” began with a triple-bogey on No. 16 (the girls played the back nine on Day 1).
The triple-bogey could have been avoided had Cole taken a drop out of a hazard. Instead she chose to rehit her shot from 85 yards out.
“I’m starting to regret it now,” Cole said of her decision. “At the time, I’d rather take an 85-yard shot instead of an awkward 25-yarder.”
Still she enters today’s final round seven strokes ahead, and her 43 combined with Leeann Noble’s 55 led Gainesville to a first-day score of 98, three strokes ahead of West Hall.
With a large lead, Cole plans to play conservatively today, which could help Gainesville in the long run.
“Some people say that’s a bad part of my game — that I play like a girl,” Cole said. “I’m never too aggressive.”
Cole’s commanding lead in the girls tournament contrasts the close battle in the boys side of the championship.
Johnson’s Grant Cagle was the low medalist of Day 1 with a 1-under 35, which helped pace the Knights to a team score of 152, one off leader North Hall, which had all six golfers score in the 30s.
“Having six in the 30s tickles me pink,” North Hall coach Robert Mills said. “Being in the lead is great, but when 39s don’t count, that’s nice.”
The Trojans’ one-shot lead is reverse of their position after Day 1 in last year’s tournament when they trailed Johnson by one.
“I was thinking it was going to be real close like last year,” Johnson coach Jeff Steele said.
“What I’m proud of the most is we had two players that were 4 or 5-over and ended up 2 or 3-over. For them to be that mentally tough shows some character.
“We feel good, and I think anyone will tell you that we left some shots on the course,” he added. “We’ve got some kids that’ll shoot better tomorrow.”
It’s hard to imagine Cagle having a much better round.
Playing alongside last year’s Region 7-AAA champion and Times’ Golfer of the Year, Jimmy Lloyd, Cagle parred every hole but No. 3, which he birdied. Lloyd also played well with birdies on No. 1 and No. 3, but a bogey on No. 2 and a double-bogey on No. 7 put the Trojans golfer two strokes off the lead. Defending Hall County champion Will England of West Hall is four shots off the lead with a first-round of 39.
“It could have been a little better,” Cagle said of his round. “My putter saved me.”
The two golfers played together during last year’s Hall County Championships and Cagle said he reminisced about their performance of a year ago.
“I had thoughts of last year how we both played the rounds of our lives,” he said. “Jimmy pushes me. It helps because when he hits a good shot I want to do the same.”
Lloyd’s 37 was the low score for North Hall, which had Roger Nash, Ross Ward and Charlie Matthews all shoot a 38.
“We always want to win,” Mills said. “That’s what you play for.”
Win or lose, Steele is looking forward to the tournament’s conclusion.
“I like it this close,” Johnson’s coach said. “I’m looking forward to how this plays out.”