When your team has the state medalist, it is usually a good sign of how you’ll finish in the race for the team title at a Georgia High School Association boys state golf tournament.
When your team has the state medalist and four other players who are tied as the runner-up, you run away with the championship.
In Monday’s Class 4A boys state tournament at the Dalton Golf & Country Club, Marist freshman Will Chandler shot a 6-under-par 66 and four of his teammates shot 1-under 71s as the War Eagles won by 18 strokes over runner-up Richmond Academy. In the tournament’s six-play, four-score format, one of those 71s didn’t even count in the team standings as Marist won the title for the second year in a row.
“As long as I have been coaching golf and working in this tournament, I can’t ever remember anyone who has ever shot that low in the state tournament,” said Northwest Whitfield golf coach and tournament coordinator Jim McGrew, who is retiring this year and will help start the women’s golf program at Dalton State College. “For a team to put that kind of number on this course is unbelievable.”
Columbus, the 2011 and 2012 Class 3A state champions, finished third overall with a team score of 305, with Charlie Flowers part of the group of five at 71. Stanton Schorr added a round of par, while Patrick Edwards finished with an 80 and Will Johnson had an 82 for the Blue Devils.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have, but Marist just put a ridiculous, crazy number up on the board,” Flowers said. “Stanton and I had pretty good rounds, but overall we were a little off.”
Crazy was just one of the words used to describe the War Eagles’ performance.
“To have to throw out a 1-under on your card because that is too high is just ridiculous,” said Dalton’s Jacob Brown, who led the Catamounts with a 75. “No one was going to touch them.”
Northwest senior Silas Ledford agreed.
“They will have five of the six players on the all-state golf team, and that goes to show you what they have and what they draw to their school,” said Ledford, who was one of three Northwest golfers at 78. “There is no competing with that. I have never seen anything like that.”
Northwest and Dalton were the local qualifiers for the state tournament. Dalton had captured the Region 7-4A title with a team score of 315 on the same course, while Northwest was third with a 322. The Bruins reversed those fortunes at the state tournament, finishing in sixth overall with a 313 as four players shot in the 70s. Dalton finished seventh with a 318.
“Our goal is always to play our best round of golf in their last match of the year, and they did that today,” McGrew said of his team’s finish. “Marist made it look pretty easy, but it was some tough conditions out there. To have four guys in the 70s is a testament to how hard they have worked and how hard they have pushed themselves since region. I have been very proud of this team for what they have accomplished this year.”
Along with Ledford, Sam Speights and Ethan Hayes each shot 78 for the Bruins, while Chad Flanders finished with a 79. Chandler Lomax (86) and Tyler Clayton (91) also competed for Northwest.
The rains which swept through the area on Sunday, bringing flash flooding and forcing the closing of roads across the region, seriously slowed down the fairways and the greens at the country club, but they also made those greens much more receptive to approach shots, especially longer approach shots. With the players able to use a lift-clean-replace rule because of the soggy conditions, longer hitters like Chandler were at an even greater advantage.
“The greens were definitely a lot softer, and I had a lot of wedges in my hand coming into greens today which was a real good thing,” said Chandler, who went out in 4-under 32 and shot a two-under 34 on the back nine. “My goal was to keep the ball in play, and if you do that on this course, you can score pretty well.”
He had little trouble scoring well, and neither did his teammates. Jack Larkin, Sean Murphy, Will Duma and Joe Quirk all had 71s. Even Mitchell Yates, the team’s worst scorer, finished at 1-over 73.
“It was just one of those crazy days where everything came together more perfectly than you could have planned it,” said Marist coach Jeff Decker. “Four of them had their career bests today, and all six came together like a perfect storm.”
Dalton coach Chad Jordan said the storm — the weather one, not the War Eagles’ metaphorical one — hurt his team. After spending the past three weeks playing the country club in preparation for state, Jordan said the wet conditions had the layout playing much different.
“I think our play around the greens is what got us,” Jordan said. “They were obviously saturated, and it just wasn’t the same course we had been playing.”
Senior Will Duffie, who struggled with an 86, is the only consistent scorer Dalton will lose from this year’s team. Along with Brown’s 75, Allen Behr finished with a 77. Freshman Landon Hicks was even through the first 10 holes and finished with an 80. Along with Duffie, Chris Kazmierski shot an 86. Senior Cole Calfee shot an 87.
“We had some younger players really step up and it bodes well for the future,” Jordan said.