An early morning start to their day allowed the Darlington golf teams some time to get a bite to eat, some extra rest and the focus they needed to surpass the competition at the area tournament.
Darlington’s boys shot a season-low team total of 295, while the girls finished with a final score of 155 at Cobblestone Golf Course in Acworth on Tuesday, running away with a sweep of the Area 4-A Private championships for the second year in a row.
Both teams have a spot in the Class A Private state championships, which will take place MAy 20-21 at Green Island Golf Club in Columbus. Darlington’s girls are the reigning Class A Private state champions.
Coach Jared Willerson said he could tell there was something different about the players on their way to the tournament Tuesday morning.
“We left out about 6:15. I gave them all a biscuit as they got on the bus. They went to the back, sat in their seat and really didn’t say a whole lot,” Willerson said. “There’s usually some banter back and forth between the kids, but this morning you could tell they were really focused.”
The boys, led by one-over 72s from junior Lindsey Cordell and freshman Redding Shaw, finished 10 strokes ahead of the second-place team. The Tigers got a 76 from Carter Anderson, while Knox Sirmans, Alec Patterson and Scott Spyra each shot 76. Shaw’s score was his lowest in a tournament this season.
“We have 10 kids who have shot below 80 this year, so after our first four were set, the last two spots were up for grabs and Redding and Knox went out and earned them,” Willerson said. “Today they proved they belonged out there.”
Nea Leppanen shot a 75 and Liza Frisbee finished with an 80 to set the Lady Tigers’ score. Darlington won by 31 strokes, with The Walker School’s girls’ finishing with a team total of 186 for second. Darlington’s Hannah Willerson shot an 89, while Anne Scott Smith carded a 108. All four Lady Tigers finished in the top 10 individually.
Willerson said while there was some added pressure for both teams going into Tuesday, he was confident the work they had done all season would help them when it got down to crunch time.
“They knew what they needed to do. I told them to go out and take care of business,” Willerson said. “And the girls did a really good job of just going out and playing. They didn’t get distracted by other players and any of the other things that happen at an area tournament. I’m so proud of both teams and all of our players.”
Both teams have had challenges this season. The girls lost 2018 area champion Sophia Kalusche to graduation last year but gained Leppanen. Meanwhile Frisbee has continued to improve, according to Willerson. The Tigers have had more physical ailments to overcome with players getting minor injuries here and there, while Cordell and Anderson were recently under the weather.
Still, Willerson said they’ve been able to stay on task through practice and competition to steadily improve with hopes of peaking at the right time.
“We are ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “I’ve really focused on everyday improvement this year, for both the girls and the guys. So many of them have something they’re good at now they were not good at when we started and they’ve bought in. And when you get that from a group of kids, good things start to happen.”
In other action Tuesday, Rome High’s first-ever girl golfers competed at the Area 4-5A tournament at Heritage Golf Links in Tucker, a course that coach Steve Sewell said was simply brutal on the competition.
Freshman Grace Buck was the low scorer for the Lady Wolves, shooting a 114 to finish 10th overall. Senior Maya Williams made the cut after the first nine. Sewell said he was proud of the season they had, knowing that most of the girls didn’t start playing until about three months ago.
I thought we had a good season. And the fact that we have only one senior is a benefit of course,” Sewell said. “We had a good year with some good matches, and we’re where we need to be going into our second season.”