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High school golf: Region titles on the line for area teams
Gainesville Camryn Cole, two-time Region 7-AAA individual champion, takes a practice swing at Chattahoochee Golf Course on Tuesday in preparation for today's region match at Sconti Golf Course in Pickens County. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times
There’s a common thread in the messages of golf coaches prepping their players for this week’s Region 7-AAA matches: The only thing controllable is the shot about to be taken.

According to first-year Gainesville girls coach Clay McDonald, golf is a fickle game influenced by outside factors as much by the person playing.

“This whole season we’ve just tried to stay in the moment,” McDonald said. “We don’t get ahead and don’t look behind.

“The girls know that they need to get into their golf worlds and stay there.”

Gainesville, along with the rest of the Region 7-AAA girls teams, enter that world today at Sconti Golf Course at Big Canoe in
Pickens County.

On the line is a region title and two state berths.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” McDonald said.

Leading the field in today’s match is two-time region individual champion and three-time Hall County champion, Gainesville junior Camryn Cole.

“Camryn is very talented,” McDonald said. “I think everybody that plays her probably guns for her.”

West Hall’s Natalie Mathias and Hannah Derthick, who finished second and third to Cole respectively at the Hall County
Championships, will be among those gunners today.

Working in Cole’s favor, along with her play, is tradition. The Lady Red Elephants have had one of their own win the individual honors at the region meet in 10 of their 11 seasons playing girls golf.

“I’m excited,” Cole said, “but I’m also really nervous.

“This course will let you have your best day or your worst day and I’m looking forward to seeing what it does.”

With Pickens winning the region title in 2008 and White County placing second, last year marked the first time in the Gainesville program’s history that it didn’t qualify for the state tournament.

McDonald is hopeful that redemption is in the cards, especially considering that his Lady Red Elephants beat the defending region champions by a stroke in last weekend’s Spartan Lanier Challenge High School Golf Tournament.

“We’re taking everything as present term as we possibly can,” McDonald said. “We’re thinking about the process and not the result because it’s the process that’s going to get us back to state.”

The Region 7-AAA boys teams begin play at 8 a.m. Thursday at Chattahoochee Golf Course in Gainesville.

To say that the field is loaded is an understatement.

Four of the 13 teams in Region 7-AAA are ranked in the top 10 in Class AAA, with defending Region 7-AAA champion North Hall sitting at No. 1.

“So far (the team) has responded pretty good (to being ranked No. 1),” North Hall coach Robert Mills said. “We beat Gainesville at the Principal’s Cup after spring break and shot a season-low 298 to barely beat Lumpkin County at Achasta, so they’ve been focused.”

The Trojans are led by all-state performer, Times 2008 Boys Golfer of the Year, and defending region individual champion Jimmy Lloyd, as well as 2008 fifth-place state finisher Landry Haynes.

“Experience plays a big part in this year’s success,” Mills said. “I’ve got older guys who’ve been there, which is big.”
In order to repeat as region champions, North Hall will have to contend with a Johnson team that bested it by one shot in the Hall County Championship, a Gainesville team steeped in a tradition of winning region (33 titles) and state (five titles), and an
emerging Lumpkin County team that it beat by only four strokes April 1.

“This region is tough,” Mills said, “but it’s about being competitive and a region championship is the goal.

“We keep the mental focus geared toward competition and preach one shot. One shot is the important thing because you never know when that one shot that could make or break you will be.”

Johnson is led by Hall County individual champion Grant Cagle while Gainesville is led by all-state performer and Wallace State College signee Justin Cochran and North Georgia College and State University signee Jake Martin.

The Indians will attempt to make their second-straight trip to the state tournament in the program’s history on the play of Aaron George, Everett Huntsinger, Austin Booker and Ben Jarrard.

“The thing that sets this region championship apart from any other sport is that it’s a game where you aren’t necessarily playing people, but conditions and a course and your mind,” Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley said. “We can’t control what North Hall does or Johnson or Lumpkin County — and they’re all good.

“The team with the lowest score on that day wins, and the fact is that you just don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens.”
Regional events