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This week: County golf championships set to tee off
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With the conclusion of basketball over the weekend, spring sports has full domination of the high school schedule, and action on the links is the first to step to the forefront.

Hall County’s golfers are set to congregate on one course Monday and Tuesday for the Hall County Championships, an annual two-day event at Royal Lakes Golf Course in Flowery Branch. The tournament will crown a top team and top individuals for both boys and girls golfers.

The field is stocked with talent, but the entire county is chasing down Gainesville for the top spots. The Red Elephants’ boys and girls teams won last year’s tournament, serving as a precursor to their eventual Class AAA state titles.

Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley knows his golfers are aware of the competition, but wants them focused more on their own scores than their opponents’ performances. The strategy has worked so far, as his team has defeated 51 opponents in two tournaments this season.

“The goal is to ultimately win tournaments, but you can’t go into a tournament worrying about winning,” Worley said. “You have to dominate the golf course. We don’t like losing, but if we shoot a good score and get beat, we’re OK with that.”

With 6,871 yards from the longest tees, the par-72 Royal Lakes offers an all-around challenge for the Hall County golfers.

Worley says it can be very unforgiving on the fairway — a shot out of bounds can be costly.

The greens can also be deceiving, and require precise placement or risk dealing with difficult slopes.

“It can be a tough golf course,” Worley said. “The biggest thing is when they hit a shot to make sure they’re committed to it. You still don’t want to be making decisions over the ball.”

Should weather be a factor, the course might be even tougher. A 70 percent chance of rain is in the forecast for Flowery Branch on Monday.

But that only makes the tournament more difficult for everyone, and possibly more competitive.

“If that happens then that kind of brings the field together,” Worley said. “It makes it harder for any team to separate themselves.”

BIG GAMES HIGHLIGHT LOCAL BOYS SOCCER: As a soccer-rich region of Georgia, it’s no surprise that some of the state’s bigger games often feature two area teams. Three of them are scheduled this week, including a faceoff between two currently-undefeated squads.

West Hall visits Buford at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a key Region 7-AAA matchup. Neither team has lost a game yet this season, making the contest an important one in determining the region champion and seedings for the state playoffs.

The Spartans have been a surprise team this year, sporting a 7-0 record despite a coaching change for the first time in the program’s history. After Wolfgang Jager retired last year following a 23-year stint with West Hall, former assistant Andrew McCain has kept the program afloat in stellar form. His team has outscored opponents 32-2 this year, cracking the five-goal mark on four different occasions.

Buford has started the season in typically strong fashion, sporting a 5-0 record following a 6-0 rout of Jefferson on March 1. The Wolves have three wins over teams in higher classifications this season.

Other big area boys games include a non-region affair between Chestatee (6-1) and Gainesville (4-2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. On Friday, Johnson (5-1-1) takes on a North Hall team without a regulation loss yet this season at 2-0-2.

REGION BASEBALL BEGINS: The hunt for the state playoffs begins this week for area baseball teams, as they open their region schedules.

No region starts off with a bigger bang than Region 8-AAAAA, which features a marquee matchup between Gainesville and Winder-Barrow at 5:55 p.m. Friday at Ivey-Watson Field. The game will feature top-tier college prospects on both sides, including Gainesville’s Michael Gettys (Georgia recruit) and Sims Griffth, along with Winder-Barrow’s Travis Demeritte (South Carolina) and Grayson Ivey (Kennesaw State).

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