Southeast Bulloch clinched its first birth in the state golf finals since 2001 this season, riding the efforts of junior Tyler Smith all the way.
Smith has consistently been the low scorer on this year’s team and showed up big when it mattered most.
Last week, Smith led the Jackets on a back nine charge to clinch second place in the Region 3-AA tournament at The Woods Golf Course in Bleckley County to earn a spot as one of the final 16 teams in the Double-A classification.
Smith again led all Yellow Jacket golfers Monday, firing an 84 as the Jackets finished 14th in the state finals at The Creek at Hard Labor State Park.
“It was exciting to know that we’d be going to state,” said Smith. “I think that everyone has improved over the season. Not being in state before, I don’t know what we were really expecting, but I’m proud that we were able to make it.”
Smith did more than his part to ensure that SEB made it to the finals, earning the low medalist honors at the region tournament by shooting a 4-over 79.
“I’ve been shooting right around par or just a little over all season,” said Smith. “(The Woods) was a tough course, but I was able to make some good shots and put up a low score.”
But – impressive as Smith has been – there is more credit to go around.
While most think of golf as an individual sport, winning at the high school level requires a solid effort from each member of the team to gain success for a school. Teammates might not be able to strategize during a round or take a swing for each other, but they still find ways to urge each other on.
“We definitely feed off of each other,” said Smith. “If I see someone make a good shot in the fairway ahead of me or sink a putt right behind me, I know that we’re doing well as a team. You can take someone else’s success and use it as momentum. That’s kind of what happened for us at region.”
Ricky Derring, Justin Cassidy and Daniel Eden joined Smith as the low scorers — the lowest four out of six total rounds were counted for each school — for SEB as the Jackets posted a final score of 385.
The SEB girls team also got in on the fun, finishing 12th in the state in their competition at Long Shadow Golf Course in Madison.
The Lady Jackets fired an aggregate 242 to earn their spot among the state’s top Double-A golfing schools.
“It wasn’t our best day for either team, but it was still a great year,” said SEB coach Gene Eden. “We played very well all year and we were very pleased with both teams making it to state. These were a pair of tough courses for the finals, but everyone played hard and I’m proud of all of our golfers.”
With many talented teams from all over Georgia in the mix, the Jackets were well aware of the level of competition they were up against. Though a state title wasn’t in the cards this year, Eden is proud of his squads.
“We’re very optimistic for the future,” said Eden. “We have a lot of freshmen who stepped up and contributed this season and we don’t graduate any seniors on either the girls or boys teams. Hopefully, we can make this a trend for both teams in the next few years.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.