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N. Hall's Forrester wins in playoff, Gainesville's Bishop takes top honors at Hall Co. Championships
Gainesville boys, girls sweep team titles
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Johnson's Cody Smith uses grass to see the direction of the wind before teeing off Wednesday during the Hall County Golf Championships at Chicopee Woods Golf Course. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Hall County Championships results

Boys Top 10:

1. Bartley Forrester North Hall 74
2. Spencer Ralston Gainesville 74
3. Tanner Merck Flowery Branch 74
T4. Brody Simmons Gainesville 79
T4. Drew Lasseter Gainesville 79
T4. Brennan Manson North Hall 79
T4. Cody Smith Johnson 79
T4. Triston Cooper East Hall 79
9. Ryan Hogan Gainesville 80
10. Michael Kallab North Hall 81

Boys Team Scores:

1. Gainesville 311
2. North Hall 314
3. Flowery Branch 346
4. Johnson 349
5. Chestatee 366
6. East Hall 368
7. West Hall 413

Girls Top 10:

1. Ashleigh Bishop Gainesville 77
T2. Jenni Barrett Johnson 80
T2. Macie Hurst Johnson 80
3. Delaney Smith North Hall 92
T4. Kayla Watson Chestatee 95
T4. Madison Stewart Johnson 95
T6. Olivia Young West Hall 97
T6. Juliana Towns Gainesville 97
8. Jordyn Jasperson Flowery Branch 103
T9. Whitney Spain Flowery Branch 104
T9. Vivian Robinson Gainesville 104

Girls Team Scores:

1. Gainesville 278
2. Johnson 286
3. Flowery Branch 297
4. West Hall 324
5. Chestatee 344
6. North Hall 360

North Hall High sophomore Bartley Forrester was visibly shaking after making the final putt of the Hall County Championships tournament Wednesday at Chicopee Woods Golf Course in Gainesville Wednesday.

That putt was the last of a two-hole playoff which crowned him low medalist, or individual champion, of the boys side of the tournament.

Forrester, Flowery Branch High’s Tanner Merck and three-time Hall County champion Spencer Ralston all finished the two-day regulation period of the tournament shooting a 74.

The three took to the Mill course and began the playoff at the first hole.

Forrester teed off first and hit his ball down the right side of the fairway and to the bottom of the hill of the par-5 first.

Ralston, a University of Georgia signee, followed and played the left side of the fairway, also hitting his ball to the bottom of the hill for a short wedge shot into the green.

Merck striped his tee ball down the center of the fairway, but not quite to the crest of the hill for it to fall to the bottom.

Merck’s second went to the right side of the green, just off the putting surface. Ralston hit his shot to the right of the flag and off the green. Forrester hit his ball dead at the flag. It bounced behind the hole and off the green.

All three decided to putt to the hole, though none made it.

Ralston stepped up and tapped in for a birdie.

Merck was next, also shooting for birdie. The putt lipped out of the cup and eliminated him from the playoff.

“I had a putt like that earlier when I first played it and I knew it didn’t break as much as it looked,” Merck said. “The last time, I missed it three inches to the right. I played it a little less and it lipped on the right side. I thought it was in, but it lipped.

“I gave it a good shot,” he continued. “I hit a good putt. I did my part. I’m not mad. It was just good to be there.”

Forrester stepped up and, with the pressure on, sank his putt.

Forrester and Ralston headed to the par-3 second and Forrester once again led from the tee.

His shot landed on the right front of the green. Ralston’s shot was long, landed on the back of the green and bounced off.

Ralston’s second shot was a lag to three feet. His opponent hit his putt past the hole, but inside of Ralston’s ball.

The three-time champion burned the edge of the hole, leaving the door open for Forrester to finish his quest for the title.

During Wednesday’s second round, Forrester and Ralston played together and the sophomore went on a tear to put himself in contention.

Coming into the day four strokes off of Ralston’s lead, Forrester shot a 3-under 33.

“To be honest, at the start of the round, I didn’t think I had that much of a chance,” Forrester said. “There were a few big, pivotal holes in the middle of the round of regulation that got me closer to him.”

Forrester nearly won it outright on the ninth hole. Ralston had to make a putt on the ninth hole to ensure a spot in the playoff with a 1-over 37.

Ralston said he wouldn’t have liked to admit that he thought it was over after he missed his putt, but he had a hunch.

“I just made a bad stroke in the wrong situation. That happens in sports,” Ralston said. “It’s kind of tough in that situation. He had been putting well all day, so there wasn’t a doubt (Forrester’s putt) was going in.”

For Merck, who was tied for third at 39 coming in, it took a 1-under 35 to get in the playoff.

“It was nice to put myself in that position,” Merck said. “That’s part of it. I’ve got to capitalize on it in other tournaments, but it’s nice to be there. It was hard to get there in that spot after what I shot yesterday, but it was an accomplishment to be there.”

The trio reaching a playoff brought the tournament full-circle after they all played together on the first day.

For the team prize, Gainesville’s boys won with a two-day score of 311.

After having a 10-stroke lead after the first day, Red Elephants coach Bryson Worley said his team couldn’t get complacent — and for good reason.

“It’s always good to win your county tournament,” Worley said. “It’s early in the year. It’s local bragging rights and a big deal in our community. We did just enough to squeak it out. I think that’s 22 (Hall County Championship wins) for us.”

North Hall, with the help of Forrester’s tournament-best 33, snuck back and made it tough on Gainesville as they took second with a score of 314.

Gainesville’s girls completed a sweep of the Hall County Championships as senior Ashleigh Bishop took low-medalist honors and led the Lady Red Elephants to victory.

For Bishop, the team win is the third in her four years on the team.

“I’m proud of the girls for the way they were able to bounce back,” said Gainesville girls coach Clay McDonald. “Last year was a learning experience on so many levels for a lot of the girls. We were able to draw from the experiences we got last year and thankfully overcome a very, very good Johnson team.”

Bishop’s individual championship was a desired mark after missing the tournament last year due to injury.

“I was really sad when I missed out last year,” Bishop said. “I was really looking forward to playing this year, since it’s my last year. I really wanted to win it.

“It made it very special (to win it in my senior year),” she continued. “It was really fun. It was very intense. We were all close the whole round. I love that competitive spirit and I won’t get to have that much longer. I had a blast out there and played with some great girls. I made this a very memorable tournament.”

Bishop shot a 39 on the first day and then a 38 in the second day.

With her 77, Bishop was three shots clear of co-runner ups Jenni Barrett of Johnson and Macie Hurst of Flowery Branch.

Johnson took second with a 286 and Flowery Branch was third with a 297.

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