Creekview’s boys golf team will have an opportunity to finally get over the hump for a Class AAAAA state championship next week.
The Grizzlies have produced individual champions each of the last two seasons but they fell short to Johns Creek as a team on both occasions.
This year, however, Creekview will have the benefit of home-field advantage as the tournament is held on its home course at Woodmont Golf and Country Club.
“Hopefully, it’s very important,” Creekview coach Jimmy Thigpen said. “We’re glad it’s here and close to home. We can go through our normal routine and just treat it like any other tournament. We know the course, so I don’t think we’ll be too worried about figuring it out. We can just go out there and play.”
Defending state champion Jack Vajda, who also owns a pair of county titles decided at Woodmont, is back to lead the Grizzlies.
Luke and Josh Ledford, Tyler Latimer, Price Hollingsworth and Landon Schultz also finished the season strong, with Creekview besting Dalton by two strokes to win the area championship earlier this month.
“We just have to play with confidence and play within ourselves,” Thigpen said. “We have to play the course and not the field. I think we’re pretty confident. The guys just need to keep the focus on themselves and not the course. We need to go out there and do what we can, shot by shot.”
Sequoyah will also have familiarity with the course as it makes its third straight appearance in the state tournament.
Led by Thomas Brumbeloe, Garrett Armbrust, Ryan Wakefield and Joseph Trlica, the Chiefs have had a strong top four all season, but coach Jon Heath said this will be the most difficult test of the season.
“We’re realistic,” Heath said. “We knew we kind of squeaked in. We played well, but we know how competitive our area is. We have a solid top four. We would love to finish in the top 10, but, if we can go out there and play loose, you never know.”
In the Class AAAAAAA boys tournament at Hamilton Mill Golf Club in Dacula, Cherokee will be in a better spot than ever to contend after finishing a stroke back of an area title.
Steve Kibare and Harrison Smith each qualified for state last year as individuals and are coming off rounds of par or better at the area championship. This year, they will be joined by county champion Blake Henriques and the rest of their Warrior teammates.
“It’s going to come down to handling that big atmosphere,” Cherokee coach Gerald Sharpe said. “Can we handle the pressure of the situation? We did that well in the county and area tournaments. We believe our top three are going to shoot well for us. It’s just a matter of getting those four scores that can put you in contention.”
Woodstock will also be competing after qualifying for an at-large bid.
With Ben Fey, Billy Goddard and Adam Burns back after finishing sixth as a team last season, coach Derek Engram said he thought the struggles at the area tournament could actually be a benefit for the Wolverines.
“I think we’re playing well,” Engram said. “The guys were kind of bummed we didn’t automatically move on. I think it can motivate us in a way. They almost have a chip on their shoulder now. We have something to prove a little bit, but I think it’s even more important we’re playing well.”
On the girls side, Sequoyah’s Erin Peters qualified as an individual for the Class AAAAAA tournament at Cobblestone Golf Course in Acworth.
Creekview, meanwhile, punched its ticket as a team, with coach Casey Gramling hopeful that the Lady Grizzlies can finish the season strong.
“Going into the season, I thought we would have a chance to qualify for the state tournament,” Gramling said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with where we’re at right now. We qualified with the 14th-best score. Our challenge now is finding a way to finish better than that. Our goal going in is to finish better than we qualified.”
Lindsay Wayland and Samantha Buchberger led the way for the young Creekview team at the area tournament, but finding a third scorer will be important for the Lady Grizzlies to break back into the top 10.
County champion Woodstock will be the county's only representative in the Class AAAAAAA tournament at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer.
Caroline Goddard and Mikayle Stopp are each coming off their best rounds of the season in the area tournament, but finding a third low scorer will determine where the Lady Wolverines finish in their return to the state tournament.
“We just missed out on going last year, and I think that was pretty disappointing for us,” Woodstock coach Anita Dodd said. “We had two girls shoot the best rounds of their lives at the area tournament. If we can get something like that again, I think we’ll have a chance to do well. We just obviously need that third score to go with it.”