There is no shortage of great golf to be found in the coastal Georgia area, especially in the spring.
Over the last handful of years, more and more of that great golf is being played by the girls teams at area schools. And 2017 seems to be bringing more of the same.
The 2014 season saw Statesboro’s Sara Jane Bowers win an individual state championship while last spring saw the Lady Panthers of Portal clinch the school’s first ever state title in a team sport.
This time around, it seems as though Southeast Bulloch is ready to make some noise.
The Lady Yellow Jackets have a strong squad and are enjoying one of their better seasons of late. Over the past few days, SEB’s No. 1 Marleigh Cooper has fired a 38 at Black Creek (in Ellabell), as well as shooting 43 during Wednesday’s county championships at the Georgia Southern University course.
Cooper went low again on Thursday at Forest Heights. Facing a course with plenty of teeth still left in it from last weekend’s collegiate Schenkel Invitational, Cooper fired a 39 and SEB (team score of 90) defeated both Metter (96) and Statesboro (97)
“Marleigh is a junior and has been our leader for the last three years,” SEB coach Aimee Civalier said. “She’s been averaging about 43 for the season and has had some of her best scores lately. That 43 won the Bulloch County championship on what was a really tough GSU course.”
And while Cooper is leading the charge, she has plenty of help from her teammates.
Jade Hoyle shot a 51 and Morgan Oliff carded a 58 to fill out the Jackets’ winning score on Thursday. Chyann Hoyle has also turned in solid scores throughout the season while Emily Beasley has grown her game as an alternate for the team.
Last season, the Lady Panthers of Portal proved that a couple of solid players can dominate a field. Due to an injury, Portal fielded just two players in its region tournament, but still easily qualified for the state tournament. A few weeks later, Portal brought the Class A public championship back to town.
Having an ace or two on the roster is always good, but the Jackets are hoping that their depth will allow them to compete now, as well as in the years to come.
“We don’t have a senior on the team right now,” Civalier said. “All of our girls are back from last season and they’ve put forth a year’s worth of work and have shown a lot of improvement.
“At the middle school level, Nick Cochran is doing some great things with the boys and girls teams. We’re getting kids interested early on. Hopefully, they’ll continue to grow along with our program.”
As for this year’s edition of the Jackets, the ladies know that their toughest challenge still lies ahead.
SEB spent three years looking up at Pierce County in region tournament play. Last year’s GHSA realignment separated the schools, only to have the respective regions of the Jackets and Bears decide on combining to host an area tournament this season.
Pierce will have an advantage as their home courses - Lakeview Golf club for the boys and Okefenokee Country Club for the girls - will host both the area and Class AAA state tournaments, but the Jackets are up for the challenge.
“We’ve got a practice round scheduled out there and we’re going to tell our players to get out there and play as much as they can during spring break,” Civalier said. “Our goal is to be competitive with Pierce, and I feel like - if we can get a good effort from all our girls - we’ll have what it takes to get through the area tournament and go to state.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.