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Area prep golf teams prepare for GHSA state championships

    Softball, basketball, track — all other spring prep sports in Bulloch County have come and gone, leaving one final hoorah before the school year ends: golf.
    The GHSA golf state championships will commence Monday and Tuesday, with four teams from Bulloch County heading to different corners of the state to compete in a 36-hole championship event. Most notable of the four teams are Portal’s girls, who head to Warner Robins to defend their first and only state title for any team sports program in the small school’s history.
    Southeast Bulloch will send its ladies off to state as well for the second year in a row, led by area low-medalist Marleigh Cooper. With plenty of talent and experience, a high finish for the Jackets is well within reach. Finally, Statesboro will be the only school to send both its boys and girls teams — with the boys winning the area title by 16 strokes. The ladies finished third in their area and will head to Carrollton with the boys for the Class AAAAA championships.
    Here’s a closer look at each school at what their championship picture looks like:

    Statesboro is one of the many schools who’ll participate at the Class AAAAA championships with both boys and girls schools in attendance. The boys in particular are coming in hot, as they’re coming off one of the better seasons in program history.
    Of the nine major tournaments they entered, the boys won five of them, including the Area 1-AAAAA championships, Benedictine Under Armour Championships and the Indian Invitational — the latter of which Statesboro beat out 20 teams. The worst Statesboro finished in any tournament this year was tied for 7th, which came out of 42 teams and the Johnny Paulk Invitational — one of the most prestigious high school golf tournaments in the state.
    “We have had a great season and played well,” said head coach David Elmore. “As a coach, I could not ask for any more out of our players. They have been working extremely hard all year to win these tournaments and put us in contention to compete for a state championship.”
    If you’re going strictly off of area scores to gauge who’ll be the state favorite, Statesboro would be the fourth-best betting favorite. However, their 321 does fall sharply behind the top three contenders of Starr’s Mill, Ola and McIntosh. All three shot below 290 in the Area 2-AAAAA championships and Statesboro will have to go very low to overcome those three teams.
    “We will have a lot of tough competition out of Starr's Mill, Ola and McIntosh,” Elmore said. “We have the talent to go low and we have been playing well as a team heading into this week.”
    As for the girls, they might have a case as the best young team in their classification. And by young, 80 percent of Statesboro’s team can’t even drive themselves to practice.
    Of the six girls Statesboro’s been fielding this season, five are freshman and only one is a junior. The best of the bunch has been feshman Victory Lee, who has shot in the low 70’s and high 80’s all season and who helped the Lady Devils to a third place finish at the area championships. The girls are in line to finish top-8 based off their area score of 292, but are a long way from state favorite Starr’s Mill which comes in with a 242 area score.
    “We have come a long way this year and been competitive throughout the year,” Elmore said. “We have been hitting the ball well coming to the end of season and the girls are starting to score much better.”  
    Both boys and girls will play their rounds in Carrollton Monday and Tuesday, with the boys playing at the Sunset Hills Country Club and the girls teeing off at the Oak Mountain Golf Club.

Southeast Bulloch
    As previously mentioned, SEB will head to their state championships for the second year in a row after finishing 12th out of the 16 total teams at state last season. This time around, they’ll have a legitimate chance to improve on that after being led to a third place area finish by the aforementioned Cooper, who was the low medalist at the area championship.
    “Our goal is to break 300 between the combined 3 scores two days in a row to finish under 600 for the two days,” said head coach Aimee Civalier. “Realistically looking at the scores from all area tournaments for 2017, we have the ability to finish top eight if we play good golf two days in a row.”
    SEB did shoot an even 300 at the area 1-3A championships, so by that sample the Lady Yellow Jackets are right on track to meet their goal shooting under 600 between the two day tournament. However, if you’re going off that 300 score they’d be seeded 11th out of 16 teams at the 3A state championships.

Columbus and Calhoun both shot under 250 at their area championships, so being in title contention does seem like a far leap to make for SEB. However if the Lady Yellow Jackets want to place in the top eight, they’ll need to shoot around 275 to 280 to best the likes of Savannah Arts, Franklin County and Westminster.

“Pierce County has the ultimate advantage playing on their home course, but I see Calhoun as the team to beat,” Civalier said.

SEB will play their state championships in Okefenokee Country Club in Blackshear right around Ware County.


Last but certainly not least are the Portal Lady Panthers, the defending public A state champions and who come into this season's tournament as serious contenders to possibly be the first repeat champions since class A split into private and public in 2012.

Only two schools who’ll head to the tournament at the Landing Golf Club in Warner Robins who shot under 200 at their area championships are Portal (187) and Gordon Lee who shot a 170. While 17 strokes is a massive gap, it should be noted the Lady Panthers did not play their best golf at areas a couple of weeks ago.

“The girl’s didn’t shoot very well back at areas and I think they know they’re better than what they did,” said head coach Jay Reddick. “It’s going to take a 170 or so to beat Gordon Lee since they were 2A last season.”

Portal is armed with two ladies who’ll both head to Truett-McConnell College next season on scholarship. Layne Clark and Faith Reddick -- both whom were accustomed to playing nine-hole sets as opposed to 18 -- will have challenges ahead of them with the new 36 hole format the state championship poses this season.

Reddick has been the low medalist in nearly every tournament of match Portal’s played in this year, while Clark comes in as a nice compliment to give Portal a nice 1-2 punch. Reddick was the low medalist in last seasons state championships when Portal bested Schley County by 11 strokes.

“Playing 36 holes is going to be a challenge for everyone there, not just us,” Reddick said. “I think Faith and Layne are capable of shooting in the mid to low eighties if they play their best golf.”