From celebrities teeing it up to area soccer teams fighting for playoff position, this week boasts sporting events for entertainment and for championships.
The week starts with the seventh annual United Way of White County Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Innsbruck Resort and County Club in Helen.
The tournament, which opens with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Tuesday, raised more than $33,000 last year and the tourney’s co-chair Bill Sutton thinks this year’s event, which is sold out, could be just
"It’ll be down some but I expect us to clear over $25,000," he said. "In a down economy for this thing to sell out is a statement in itself."
Along with raising money for a good cause, the tournament boasts a diverse group of sports personalities including Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, former Atlanta Brave Javy Lopez, and former Atlanta Falcon Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson.
"Javy Lopez and Billy ‘Whiteshoes’ Johnson in addition to all our returning stars really sets this year’s event apart from the others," Sutton said.
But the names of the participants is not the most important aspect of the event.
"This tournament is here to benefit the less fortunate and that’s the only thing that matters," Sutton said.
While the tournament itself is sold out, Sutton invites everyone to attend tonight’s informal meet and greet that starts at 5:30 p.m. at Bigg Daddy’s American Tavern and Music Club in Helen.
It all comes down to one night
More than 100 area soccer contests have been played this year, but perhaps none carry as much weight as the two games that will take place Tuesday.
The fourth-ranked West Hall boys, fresh off their defeat of Johnson in the Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup, play host to Creekview, a team that is tied with both Johnson and West Hall for first place in Area 7-AAA. The outcome of the West Hall/Creekview game not only determines where each team will start the postseason, but the winner could walk off the field as the new Area 7-AAA champions.
But Johnson may have something to say about that.
The sixth-ranked Knights play host to Gainesville on Tuesday with the same circumstances on the line. A win could give the Knights an area title and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, while a loss could mean the Knights hit the road in Round 1. Johnson currently holds a tiebreaker over West Hall — thanks to a 2-0 win over the Spartans on March 19 — but the Knights lost to Creekview, 1-0, on March 9.
While the fight for the area title is certainly the most compelling aspect of Tuesday’s games, the battle for the fourth and final playoff spot will also be determined.
A Gainesville win will move the Red Elephants (6-3) into a tie for fourth with Flowery Branch, last year’s area champion. The Falcons lost to Gainesville 2-0 earlier this season, which means if Big Red beats Johnson, they go to the playoffs and Flowery Branch stays home. The Falcons’ area schedule is complete and their game against St. Pius X on Tuesday could be a playoff warm up or their final game of the year.
New tennis champs could be crowned
The week concludes with the Region 7-AAA tennis tournament from Wednesday through Friday at Alberta Banks Park. Last year’s defending champions — the West Forsyth girls and Johnson boys — enter this year’s tournament hoping to match their success from a year ago, but their journey to a repeat title won’t come easy.
Standing in the Lady Wolverines’ way is second-ranked Creekview, which enters the tournament with a perfect 11-0 record. West Forsyth, which is ranked third in the state, went 8-0 in region play this year and with every player returning from last year’s region championship team, the Lady Grizzlies have the experience it takes to successfully defend their title.
Johnson has a tougher task when it comes to repeating as boys champions as the Knights lost all three of their top singles players from last year to graduation. The Knights have struggled this season without the play of No. 1 singles play Seth Hester, No. 2 Brandon Sloan and No. 3 Billy Hulsey, and repeating as region titles would take quite a run through some great teams.
One of those teams is the sixth-ranked Red Elephants of Gainesville High which boasts an 11-2 record and three players that have yet to lose in region play this season, including No. 1 singles player Ryan Joiner, as well as the No. 1 doubles team of Robbie Bilbrough and Drew Denning. Not only are the Red Elephants playing the best tennis in the region, but they are playing inspired as well after losing the region title last year to the Knights. Gainesville is in prime position to win its first region title since they won back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006.
The Region 8-A, 6-AA and 8-AAA tournaments also begin Wednesday.