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Junior golfers tee it up at Royal Lakes
North Hall’s Andy Bracewell hits the ball Monday during Atlanta Junior Golf tournament at the Royal Lakes Golf Course in Flowery Branch. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

FLOWERY BRANCH — If Monday’s Atlanta Junior Golf tournament is any indication of next year’s high school golf season, then the Lambert Longhorns look like a tough team to beat. Lambert’s Chris Stuart carded a 75 to win the 18-hole open boys 15-18 division and his teammate Michael Matarrese shot a 77 to win the 18-hole club boys 15-18 division during the AJGA’s 21st tournament of its summer series Monday at Royal Lakes.

“I came in thinking I was going to play pretty good because I’ve been playing well lately,” said the 17-year-old Stuart.

That confidence combated his inexperience on the course, as it was the first time that Stuart played Royal Lakes. Not knowing the course made Stuart stick to his plan of attack.

“It wasn’t playing that long, but it was tricky,” he said. “I’d rather play it safe and go for fairways and greens and not in two on par 5’s.”

That mentality got Stuart back into contention, as he shook off a front-nine score of 40 to birdie No. 11, No. 12 and No. 13 and get him back to 1-over par.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever had three straight birdies,” Stuart said. “I was hitting the ball well.”

Stuart finished the back nine 1-under for a total of 75. Gainesville resident Reeves Bell finished tied for fifth and Flowery Branch resident Luke James tied with Gainesville resident Andy Bracewell for eighth place in the division. Stuart’s first-place finish was his first tournament win, which is one less than Matarrese, who won a tournament at Bent Tree on June 2.

Like his teammate, Materesse was unfamiliar with Royal Lakes, so he decided to go against his normal routine and play a practice round Sunday.

“I played a practice round on this course because there’s a lot of water and it helps with club choice,” Materesse said.

Despite his preparation, Materesse found the water twice on the same hole and found himself 3-over entering No. 8. A birdie on No. 8 and No. 12 sandwiched a pair of bogeys, but Materesse finished the final five holes at 1-over to secure the win.

“I just wanted to par out,” he said. “I made a couple birdies, but that wasn’t my mentality. I wanted to hit some greens and get as many pars as I could.”

He ended with 10 pars on the day, which is why Materesse said Monday’s win “was a lot better,” than his previous one.

Flowery Branch residents Alex Gossett finished fifth and Kip O’Kelley finished sixth. Gainesville resident Trey Forrester tied for ninth.

Marietta’s Justin Davie won the 18-hole boys 12-and-under division with a score of 74, which tied Ryan Najim and Brennan Bogdanovich for the lowest score in any division. Bogdanovich beat Najim on a scorecard playoff to win the 18-hole boys 13-14 division.

Gainesville resident Spencer Ralston finished third and Jefferson’s Anthony Whobrey finished sixth in the 18-hole boys 12-and-under tournament. Hunter Young (fifth), Nathan Williams (eighth) and Grant Lasseter (eighth) ended with top-10 finishes in the 13-14-year-old tournament.

In addition to the 18-hole tournaments, four 9-hole tournaments were also contested. Gainesville resident Drew Lasseter won the club boys 12-and-under tournament with a score of 46. Dahlonega’s Chase Smith finished fifth in the event.

Jefferson’s Charles Jarrett lost on a scorecard playoff to Brendan Patton in the open boys 12-and-under tournament to finish in second, while Gainesville resident Noah Evans carded a 48 to finish tied for third with Buford’s Conner Conkel.

Hunter Dixon won the 9-hole Open Boys 13-and-over tournament and Logan Willis won the 9-hole Club Boys 13-and-over division.

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