By Robert Alan Richardson sports writer
Morgan County’s girls’ golf team participated in one of the longest-running and largest golf events in the state on March 21, The Georgia Peach, sponsored by the Georgia Athletic Coaches’ Association. 14 teams and 72 golfers entered the event with the Lady Dogs having the largest number of entries at ten. The tournament format is set up so that any golfer at any level can find a flight to compete in with a chance of winning a plaque. The Championship and A Flights are made up of golfers that have the ability to shoot under 100 and play 18 holes while Flights B and C are not as skilled and play only 9. Flight D is made up mainly of beginners who compete in a 4-girl scramble format.
I caught up with East Paulding golf coach and Georgia Peach Tournament Director Rus Rainey to find out a little about the history of the tournament and he told me this, “Lee Murray started this tournament in 1995 and was very instrumental in getting the girls’ sport started. At that time Coach Murray had 3 girls who loved playing golf, but the only way a girl could compete was to play with the boys from the men’s tees and later on against the boys from the women’s tees. Lee finally got the GACA and Georgia High School Association to realize that it was a travesty for girls not to have their own separate venue. He started this tournament but passed away and I took over 15 years ago. The tournament was originally held at the University Course, but has been played at Hard Labor Creek for many years. We all like the format as it lets every player compete.”
Morgan’s Lady Dogs had a strong performance led by Senior Hayden Massey. She played in Flight A and finished with an 18-hole score of 99. Playing in the C Flight, Shelby Kinchen posted a consistent 9-hole score of 61 and garnered second in that group. Sophomores Savannah Ross and Maggie Massey also had strong showings in the B Flight with 60 and 62 scores respectively in the 9-hole match and were just outside the top three place winners. Also for Morgan County were Emma Breedlove, Ramsey Autry, Tiley Elliott, and Olivia Martin capturing 3rd in the D Flight 4-girl scramble with a 47. Other golfers competing were Grace Cruce and Bianca de la Torre.
After the match I caught up with Coach Pam Hooten and got these comments, “I am very proud of the girls and their performance at the Georgia Peach. Hayden has been our leader and best golfer all season while Shelby has found a new passion for the game I hope this will translate into some 9-hole scores in the 50’s before the end of the season. Savannah has consistently performed as one of the top golfers on the team. This is an incredible achievement for a girl that just picked up the game. I can’t wait to see how she continues to improve. Maggie is another one of my inexperienced players who have come on strong. They will both continue to improve and become the team leaders for years to come. This speaks volumes for the future of girls’ golf at Morgan County.”
I would be remiss if not mentioning The Creek at Hard Labor and Head Golf Pro and Course Manager, Karl Gross. The hospitality they extended to these young golfers was outstanding and The Creek is also home to six teams in the regular season. Morgan County and Social Circle have three teams at the varsity, JV, and middle school levels in both boys and girls. Mr. Gross told me, “On any given weekday we will have about 60 players practicing here either on the range, putting green, or course.” I want to give a shout out to Karl and his staff for allowing these aspiring golfers to use their facilities because I know that all the teams, coaches, and parents truly appreciate having such a beautiful place to hone their skills.
Gross finished with this, “I’ve been the head pro here for two years and we have a couple of main goals every year. The Save the Water Wheel Tournament is a fundraiser we do each year that raised about $13,000 last year with this year’s tournament being played on April 17. The other is our Junior Golf Program that has produced at least 15 former and present college golfers from Morgan County.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the water wheel at Hard Labor it is located on the signature 13th par 3 hole and was built under Franklin D. Roosevelt right after the Great Depression. The CCC camp that put men back to work produced this historic landmark on the golf course. The wheel was not turning for many years, but today we can proudly say that it turns again thanks to the Save the Wheel Campaign. Next up for both golf teams will be a home match against Walnut Grove on March 24 and away at Hart County on the 25.