RINGGOLD - This time last year, Trion's John Rollins was the unknown as he entered the 2012 Region 6-A boys' golf tournament not even listed as the No. 1 golfer on his own team.
But one impressive round of 74 - and an extra hole of sudden death - at the Coosa Country Club in Rome changed all of that as Rollins took home the region title, propelling him to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament.
Twelve months later and Rollins teed off in the Area 4-A public school tournament, but this time as the hunted and not the hunter.
However, the Bulldogs' junior proved that he could handle the pressure, carding a 4-over par 76 to win the individual title by one stroke at the Battlefield Golf Club.
Gordon Lee cruised to the team title, shooting a 320 behind Lanier Guest, who finished with a 77 to finish as the day's runner-up.
Rollins and Guest, along with Georgia Military Prep's Matt Bershadsky and Lincoln County's Harrison Mohr, went off in the first group on Tuesday and proceeded to battle each other all morning long.
Rollins was even through the first three holes, but bogeyed the par-3 third hole allowing Bershadsky to pull even. The Trion standout found trouble off the tee on par-5 fifth, but regrouped to sink a big par putt from just off the green.
All four players recorded at least two more bogeys over the next four holes, but Rollins' frontside 39 was still one shot better than Bershadsky and two better than Guest and Mohr as they made the turn.
After missing a short birdie putt on the par-5 No. 10, Rollins got his first birdie of the day at the par-5 11th, a score matched by Bershadsky and Mohr, while Guest recovered from a poor drive with a nice up-and-down from well off the green to save par.
A par on No. 12 gave Rollins a three-shot cushion, but that would all change over the next four holes. A bogey at No. 13 was compounded by a three-putt double bogey on No. 15, and with Guest reeling off seven straight pars on the backside, Rollins stepped to the tee at the par-4 16th dead even with his Gordon Lee rival.
Undaunted, he would drain a clutch birdie putt to regain a one stroke advantage, and he would take the lead into the 18th hole.
Rollins' second shot would land just off the back of the green, giving him a tricky up-and-down to save par, while Guest's second shot left him an uphill putt for a birdie and a possible playoff.
Rollins calmed chipped the ball to within six inches off the hole, tapped in, and watched with relief as Guest's putt slid just wide of the cup.
Bershadsky and Mohr each finished with a 78 and wound up in a tie for third place.
"I got off to a pretty good start, but then I got into a little bit of trouble in trees on No. 5, and I was kind of on and off really from there on out," Rollins explained. "I knew I had bear down on the back nine and start doing something because Lanier and the other two guys we were playing with weren't backing down. It really means a lot to win (area) two years in a row."
Guest said bogeys on the first three holes was not the way he had envisioned beginning his round.
"I probably could have gotten away with the bogey at No. 1, but not the next two after that," he said. "I knew there were some birdies to be had out there, but I never found one. Nine straight pars on the back nine is the only thing that kept me in it.
"If it wasn't for my wedge play today, I would have been in big trouble. I was hitting them better today than I normally do, which was good, but shooting a 77 and getting area runner-up, I can't be much more pleased than that."
A pair of 79's from Devin Edwards and Seth Lewis, combined with Blake Bailey's 85, rounded out the Trojans' team score. Ryan Thomison (89) and Mika Clark (99) also teed it up for Gordon Lee on Tuesday.
The area title was the first for a Gordon Lee boys' golf team and it earned them just the second state tournament berth in the program's history.
Head coach Ed Clendenen said he was "thrilled" for his team.
"It was a great team effort," he said. "I hate it for Lanier that he didn't win (the individual title), because he played his tail off today. But he did a great job setting the tempo for us, and the rest of the kids played great. That 320 is the lowest score we've shot all year and this is the time when you want to do that."
The Class A boys' public school state tournament will be held May 20 at the Double Oaks Golf Club in Commerce.
"We're looking forward to competing in Commerce and seeing what we can do," Clendenen added. "I'm not sure if another 320 over there would be good enough to win, but I suspect it would put us in the hunt. Some players may be a little tight that day, knowing it's the state tournament, so who knows what will happen."
Trion got a 79 from Jake Reaves, an 88 from Ben Huggins, and a 104 from Lee Langston to complete their score of 347. Lincoln County (369) and Commerce (373) will join Trion at the Sunset Country Club in Moultrie on May 6 for the state sectional tournament.
Georgia Military (402) and Glascock County (556) rounded out the team standings. Towns County had just three players and was not eligible for the team trophy.
Towns County nips Gordon Lee for girls' title
A 93 from low medalist Stephanie Patton helped lift the Towns County Lady Indians to a two-shot victory over the Lady Trojans and an automatic berth in the state tournament.
Towns carded a team score of 198, while Gordon Lee finished with an even 200. The Lady Trojans will also compete in the sectionals at the Sunset Country Club along with Trion, who was third with a 214.
Ashley McDonald led Gordon Lee and her 96 was good enough for second place individually. Abbey Bohannon, playing just her first-ever 18-hole round, carded a 104 to round out the Lady Trojans' team score, while Abby Kisor (109) and Erica Whitfield (118) also competed for Gordon Lee.
The rounds turned in by McDonald and Bohannon were career tournament bests for the two players.
"It's tough to lose by just two shots, but we've improved so much," GL head coach Jared Willerson explained. "I have a team full of girls that have only been playing golf for two years. They've really worked hard this year, so to place second and have two of them shoot their (tournament) career low rounds, it just goes to show how tenacious they are."
"I'm looking for big things next year out of this group since we don't have any seniors, but I'm satisfied with how we did today, and we've got more golf to play this year so I'm happy."
Raegan Middleton led the Lady Bulldogs with a 104, followed by Hannah Patterson (110), Murphy Browning (122), and Sydnee Thompson (134).