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The Times 2008 Golf Coach of the Year: Lumpkin County's Jeff Fleming
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A good recruiting class here, a major free-agent signing there, and college and pro sports teams can have a breakout season; a season in which they turn it around.

It isn’t that easy in prep sports.

The Lumpkin County boys golf team didn’t sign Tiger Woods, nor did they land Phil Mickelson, yet they were able to go from unmentionable in the past to a force to be reckoned with on the links, thanks to a change in attitude and focus.

“There were several matches they lost when they should have won and (Indians coach Jeff) Fleming didn’t let them dwell too long on a bad day or a bad hole,” said Larry DesPres, Lumpkin County booster club president and father of the Indians lone senior Adam DesPres.

“He helped them shake it off and their goal all along was to win region.

“I have been around the program and it had gone from, ‘Just enjoy yourself and we’ll have a banquet at the end of the year,’ to being very different, and that was due to Fleming. He let the guys know that every match was theirs to lose.”

The turnaround gave cause for the Lumpkin County golf coach to be named The Times Golf Coach of the Year.

“You know, coach Fleming did what he had to do to keep them focused,” DesPres said. “He showed them leadership and gave them guidance.”

Behind a combination of senior leadership, Adam DesPres played in the Indians golf program for three years, and talented underclassmen in freshman Aaron George and sophomore Everett Huntsinger, both of whom set school records for nine- and 18-hole scores this year, Lumpkin County placed second in the Region 7-AAA tournament and culminated the season with its first-ever state tournament berth.

The Indians finished the Class AAA state tournament, held at the Hawks Ridge Golf Course in Ball Ground, tied for fifth place with Blessed Trinity having shot a 305, a 12-shot improvement from the region tournament.

“We’re elated with how we performed in our first trip to state,” Fleming said after the match.

“The mood on the team was electric,” DesPres said. “It was very exciting because historically they haven’t been very competitive.”

The Indians began the year 6-2 in head-to-head matches including a win over perennial region powerhouse Gainesville.

Also, early in the season, the Indians played in a 20-team tournament called the Apple Mountain Tournament in which they placed second to Class AAAAA Peachtree Ridge.

“I think that was the first indication that things were different,” DesPres said. “It was a big booster for the team and Fleming built on that momentum.”

With George and Huntsinger leading the way, the duo not only carded the low score for the Indians in their big win over the Red Elephants, but also shot 74 and 75 respectively in the state tournament to lead Lumpkin County to its fifth-place finish, the turnaround seemingly isn’t a one-year highlight.

“It’s the beginning of, what appears to be, several years of talented golf,” DesPres said. “(Fleming’s) going to be able to continue building on what he started this year.”