It was a successful trip to the Class AAAAAAA boys golf state championship for Cherokee County's teams, as Cherokee and Woodstock each finished in the top seven at Hamilton Mill Golf Club in Dacula.
The Warriors in particular made a splash in their return to the state tournament, shooting 621 to finish in a tie for fourth with Hillgrove, one stroke back of third-place North Gwinnett and two back of runner-up Walton.
“The guys definitely surprised us,” Cherokee coach Gerald Sharpe said. “We came into the season with high expectations, but not these kids of expectations. They far exceeded what we thought we could do at the beginning of the year.”
Cherokee played its way into contention right away, shooting 311 on Day 1 to end the round alone in second place. Steve Kibare was also alone as the leader with a 3-under par 69 after the first round.
The Warriors shot even better as a team in Round 2 with a 310, though it was only the seventh best round of the championship.
Kibare finished the tournament with a 3-over 147 to tie for third with teammate Blake Henriques, who shot a second-round 1-under 71.
Harrison Smith was six shots better Tuesday to finish in a tie for 15th at 154. Robert Hallett shot 178 to finish 73rd.
With five of six golfers set to return next season, Sharpe thinks the future of his program is bright.
“They played their hearts out and left everything out there for us,” he said. “They were really just consistent. They stayed out of trouble and didn’t have any big numbers on their scorecards. They got out of trouble when they needed to. We’re bringing back five of those six, too. We think the future is bright. I think everyone will keep working harder and, if we can get a kid who can shoot halfway decent, we’ll have a shot at a state championship.”
While Cherokee came back to the group some, Woodstock improved by 13 strokes from Day 1 to Day 2 to finish seventh at 629.
The Wolverines were already 17 strokes off the lead after Monday’s round, and coach Derek Engram thought that helped his team play some of its best golf of the season.
“We just didn’t play well,” Engram said. “The second day, there was no pressure. We were kind of out of it at that point. Unless a bunch of teams collapsed, we didn’t really have any pressure. We could swing a little freer. With that and a little more experience on the course, they were just able to play a lot better.”
Ben Fey was four strokes better with his Day 2 73 to finish in a tie for eighth at 150. Connor MacMillan was two strokes back in a tie for 11th, and Adam Burns dropped seven strokes between rounds to finish tied for 26th. Billy Goddard shot 168 to finish tied for 48th.
With another year of state experience, Engram said Woodstock could be the one challenging Cherokee for the top spot in the future.
“I’m proud of the guys,” he said. “It was a tough field. We didn’t get quite as high as we did last year, but I was happy with them. They’re all coming back, so the future is bright, I think.”
At the Class AAAAAAA girls tournament at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer, Woodstock shot 559 to finish 11th.
Caroline Goddard (169) tied for 24th to lead the Lady Wolverines, while MacKensie Blackburn (188) was 40th and Maggie Ziegler (204) 50th.