One shot can shift the momentum for better or worse in a golf match.
For Dalton High School’s boys team, one stroke was enough to make them region champions.
The Catamounts, led by a 3-over-par 75 from senior William Duffie, got counting scores of 80 from three other golfers and claimed the Region 7-4A tournament title Monday at Dalton Golf and Country Club. Heritage-Catoosa — led by medalist Sport Allmond and runner-up Ben Rebne, who shot 73 and 74 respectively — was runner-up with a team score of 316.
Dalton earns a trip to the Class 4A state championship tournament on May 20, also at Dalton Golf and Country Club. The Cats should be considered one of the favorites at state since it will be played on their home course, and depth could also make their chances more favorable. That depth was a factor Monday.
Jacob Brown, who went out in the top pairing of the day, struggled with an 86, but Allen Behr, Landon Hicks and Chris Kazmierski all shot 80s to make up the team score of the top four golfers. Cole Calfee also played for Dalton shooting an 85. Each team can play up to six golfers.
“That is the thing about team golf,” Dalton coach Chad Jordan said. “You may not like where you are individually, but you have five guys with you who can pick you up, or you might be the one picking someone else up.
“We could have saved a lot of strokes out there today, but at the same time, the boys controlled the amount of strokes they gave up and that was the difference.”
While Dalton’s ticket is straight to the state tournament, Heritage, Northwest Whitfield (322) and LaFayette (332) all advanced to the Class 4A sectional tournament on May 6 at Waynesboro Country Club. Under Georgia High School Association rules implemented this season, any school which finishes in the top four of the region tournament and makes a predetermined qualifying score — it was 340 for Class 4A boys teams — advances to the sectional tournament.
The state tournament field will have 16 teams, and the number of teams advancing out of the sectional tournament will vary depending on how many region champions meet the qualifying score. At least eight teams will advance from the sectional tournament.
River Ridge (354), Gilmer (356), Pickens (360), Cedartown (364), Southeast Whitfield (390), Ridgeland (451) and Cass (462) rounded out the field for Region 7-4A.
Dalton’s day was almost done in with struggles on the par-3 14th. As a team, the Cats’ six golfers were a combined 10 over on the hole, but a strong finish down the stretch and steady play the rest of the day gave the school its 14th region title since 1994, 26th overall since 1973 and fifth straight. Dalton has won eight state titles, with the first in 1983 and its most recent championship in 2004.
“I am pleased with our performance,” Duffie said. “I don’t think that it was our best golf, but it was good enough. We did a good job of limiting damage when we did get into tough spots.”
Kazmierski, another senior, said because of the strength of the entire team, everyone can play a little looser and not worry as much about having an off day.
“We all know that we can shoot low,” Kazmierski said. “We never know how the rest of the team is really doing on the course, but No. 1 to No. 6, we are all so close and it has been like that all year, where if someone has a bad round the rest of us are there to even it out. You just try to keep your composure and focus on your game in case you are the guy who has to pick someone up.”
Jordan said his team has been a work in progress all season, steadily shaving off strokes in tournament after tournament since the beginning of the year. That bodes well for the next four weeks as the Cats prepare for the state tournament.
“What I have seen is an attitude and a commitment from all of them of working and getting better,” Jordan said. “They decided to get out to the course before school and put in the work and come back out in the evenings and work until dusk. That work ethic is what makes a golfer better.”
Northwest will have to deal with the sectional tournament to earn a spot back at the country club for state. And while Bruins coach Jim McGrew was happy to have his team move on, he wasn’t happy with the finish.
“The idea is to win region so you don’t have to worry about another step, so we are disappointed that we didn’t do that,” McGrew said. “We still have a chance to earn our way to state, and the new rules give us a shot this year. If this were last year, our season would be over.”
Senior Sam Speights and sophomore Ethan Hayes both shot 79 to lead the Bruins, who also got counting scores from Silas Ledford (82) and Chad Flanders (82). Hayes was 2-over at the turn, but he said a string of tough holes bumped his score up on the back nine.
“I had five bogeys on the back with three 3-putts,” Hayes said. “I was just very inconsistent with my scoring. I think we will play a little more focused at sectionals.”
Clayton Tyler (86) and Chandler Lomax (94) also competed for Northwest.
“I think it was a day where we all had two or three bad holes,” Speights said. “I feel confident that we will get another chance to come back to this course.”
Southeast was led by Andrew Head with a 91. Other counting scores for the Raiders were Eric Sosebee (96), Terry Trey (100) and Jackie Stephens (103). Cameron Maynard (105) and Justin Hutchinson (107) also played for Southeast.
• At the Region 7-2A girls tournament at Elks Lodge in Calhoun, Murray County’s Amber Lewis won a playoff over Coosa’s Sierra Owens with a bogey on the 18th hole to earn a spot in the Class 2A state tournament.
Murray County finished third as a team, but missed the qualifying score (200) for the state sectionals by five strokes as Lewis, who shot a 98, was joined by Rebekah Wildes’ score of 107 in the four-play, two-score format. Other players for Murray County were Katherine Baynes (114) and Emily Lewis (125).
Amber Lewis’ score was the top finisher on a non-qualifying team, and after winning a playoff to take sixth place individually, she will advance to the state tournament May 20 at Vidalia’s Hawk’s Point Golf Club.
Calhoun won the region title with a 156 on the par-72 course, followed by Armuchee (205).
• Christian Heritage’s boys shot a 324 but missed out on advancing to the Class A state sectional tournament, with the Lions finishing tied for fifth in the Area 4-A tournament at Coosa County Club in Rome.
Mt. Paran shot a blistering 303 to take the title, followed by the Walker School (313) and Mt. Pisgah (317). Christian Heritage was preparing for a playoff with Whitefield Academy for the fourth spot when Darlington’s No. 6 golfer carded an 82 to push Darlington into the fourth slot.
In Class A, the region champion qualifies for state, while the second, third and fourth teams advance to the sectional tournament at Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta.
Christian Heritage was in its first year of GHSA competition after making regular trips to the state tournament in Georgia Independent School Association competition over the past five seasons.
“When Darlington’s golfer came in with an 82, that was a four-stroke swing,” Christian Heritage coach Gary Whaley said. “It was a huge swing and a little tough to take. We played in a lot of good tournaments, and we have gotten better all year and were playing our best golf this week.”
Playing on a par-72, 6,600-yard course, Cole Townsend led the Lions with a 79, followed by A.J. Hooper (81), Blake Carver (81) and Kyle Stanley (83). Harrison Gleaton (89) and Cole Maffetone (90) also competed for Christian Heritage.
Tyler Young of Mount Paran Christ-ian shot a 70 to take medalist honors.