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Local schools shine at state golf championships
Prep Golf
Portal's Shelby Clark blasts out of the sand on the par-5 16th hole at Willow Lake Country Club in Metter during the GHSA Class-A Public state championships. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

The GHSA state golf championships concluded Tuesday throughout the state. Locally, a couple teams fared well as the Portal girls placed third in Class-A Public and the Southeast Bulloch boys placed fifth overall in Class-AAA competition. 

For the Lady Panthers they were led by Shelby Clark who fired an 83 Tuesday and placed sixth overall. Emily Marks shot a 96 and ended up tying for eighth place overall. 

“We were not quite on our A game today but third place in state is still quite an accomplishment,” said Portal coach Joe Bettinger. “Lake Oconee Academy and Drew Charter played well taking first and second.  All of our golfers will be back next year so we can make another run at the state title.  We will have to commit to off season practice and play.  We look forward to the challenge.” 

For the Southeast Bulloch boys, a fifth-place team finish is the best finish in school history. Freshman Bowen Kicklighter led the way with a round of 70 which is also a record-breaking performance for the Jackets. 

“Words can’t describe how excited I am for these guys and this team,” said coach Brent Osborne. “We said at our first team meeting of the season that our goal was to finish Top 5 in the state and that’s exactly what we did. We were in seventh after the first day, and the fact that we were able to battle back and fight to slide into the fifth spot is an example of our guy’s resilience and grit to find a way to get It done.” 

“Will Nelson is our lone senior and after shooting 91 he came back to contribute in the final round,” said Osborne. “The players were so excited to be able to finish in the Top 5 for Will’s last high school tournament. Bowen Kicklighter shot an extremely impressive 70 final round. He’s only a freshman and this was his first State Championship tournament. Bowen is always so calm, and his short game is unbelievable. The fact that he went out and only had birdies and pars on his scorecard in the final round is just amazing. We were able to improve from last year where we finished tenth, and we were able to cut our score from last year by 99 strokes which is something that shows the proof of how hard they work. Only losing one senior surely shows that the future is extremely bright for the program.” 

The Southeast Bulloch girls will hope to have the same kind of improvement the boys had over the past year as they tied for tenth this year. The Lady Jackets were led by Katelyn Moore who placed 26th individually. 

“The past two days have proven one thing, and that is if we want to compete at the level of the top teams, we have to improve our game,” said coach Randy Lee. “I was very proud of how we competed but we just are not at the level right now to play for the top spot.  We played better this week and some girls have better rounds, but as a team we have to be able to post three quality scores together. The future is bright for us at SEB and I can’t wait to see how much we improve next season.”