Experience can be a key to success, but if ignorance is in fact bliss, then it is possible inexperience leads to the same result.
On Monday, the Lumpkin County boys’ golf team will make its third straight appearance in the Class AAA state golf tournament, which will be held at the Maple Ridge Golf Course in Columbus. The other representative from Region 7-AAA — the region champion Johnson Knights — will be making their first.
“Having been there before relieves the nerves that come with being there for the first time,” Lumpkin County coach Jeff Fleming said. “Being (in the state match) for the first time is a challenge.
“There are so many good teams there though, knowing what to expect only gives you a slight advantage.”
The minimal advantage Fleming spoke of is exactly what Class AAA’s fourth-ranked Knights are hoping for.
Led by Hall County individual champion Grant Cagle, who also finished fourth individually in the region, and Josh Foster who finished second in the region, Johnson won the region title by shooting a 299 as a team, seven strokes better than second-place Lumpkin County.
“This feels great right here,” said Johnson coach Jeff Steele after his team won the region championship. “I don’t care if it is by one stroke or 20 strokes; it feels great.”
Oddly enough, shooting below a 300 is what the experienced Fleming thinks it’s going to take to win state.
“First off, you have to give credit to Johnson for winning the region: To finish with a team score under 300 is a great accomplishment and I think it’s going to take a below-300 to win (state),” Fleming said. “They’re a lot of good teams in the field.”
And Lumpkin County just happens to be one of them.
Class AAA’s fifth-ranked Indians finished second to North Hall in the region the last two years. At the state tournament, the Indians finished eighth last year – the highest of any area team – and tied for fifth in 2008.
“This is a one-day match and if your guys are on that day, you’ve got a chance to win,” Fleming said. “We have capable guys and hopefully they will be on.”
Lumpkin County is led by individual region champion and all-state golfer Aaron George – who shot a 69 to win the region title.
Fleming expects nothing less from his star on Monday.
“He’s a special player with special tools,” Fleming said. “He shot great at region, but he has the last few times we’ve been on the course.
“It helps us out, as a team, tremendously knowing we’ve got a guy who can shoot below 72. It let’s everyone else concentrate on just playing their type of game.”
And Fleming is aware that it is going to take another region-type performance by George, plus some, for his team to walk away with a state title.
“Luckily for us, we’re strong at the top of our lineup,” Fleming said. “We expect our one, two and three to play well in the tournament and one reason for that is because our two and three didn’t play to their capabilities at region.
“As far as the rest of our lineup is concerned, we preach that the four, five and six men shoot below an 80. They’ve done a great job doing that this season and we need them to do it one more time.”
Also competing Monday for a state golf title, at the Country Club of Columbus course, will be the Gainesville girls.
“In one sense, the pressure’s off because you made it,” said Gainesville coach Clay McDonald, who’s team finished second in the region to Lambert, of competing in the state tournament. “But at the same time, you want to represent your region well."