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Golf teams square off in Helen

CONYERS - The Region 8-AAAA golf teams are heading to the North Georgia mountains for the region tournament this year.

The 8-AAAA boys and girls golf teams will square off Monday at Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club in Helen. At stake in each tournament are two berths in the state tournament.

In fact, most of the local squads will be in Helen today to get in at least one practice round on the course.

On the boys side, Eastside, Heritage and Habersham Central are considered the favorites, according to a survey of local coaches.

"After looking at the scores, it looks like Eastside and Habersham Central are the favorites," Salem boys coach Chad Estes said.

In fact, the Eastside boys, led by senior Taylor Smith, have been the most consistent scoring local squad this season. Smith is also one of the favorites to claim the individual medalist honor.

Last year, the Eagles finished sixth at Cherokee Run.

"I feel like if we play like we can, we have a great chance," Eastside boys coach Jay Cawthon said. "But you never know. We have to play like we have all year and not let the pressure get to us like it did last year. We have a lot of young kids and this is going to be their first experience at the region tournament."

The Heritage boys have made some big strides in the second half of the season. Last year, the Patriots finished third, missing a trip to the state tournament by six strokes.

"We have to take one shot at a time and not allow a large number to affect our score on more than one hole," Heritage coach David Buddenbaum said. "If we have a bad hole, we need to forget about it and move on. If we don't give any shots away on multiple holes, this will be a successful trip for us."

On the girls side, Winder-Barrow, Rockdale and Salem are among the favorites.

"I haven't seen some of the teams in person, but I believe that Winder-Barrow and Salem both have the players to contend for state," Rockdale girls coach Frank Cassino said. "I am also hopeful that our girls will be in the mix. If we play to our capabilities, we should be right there at the end.

"If we can keep the ball in play and make correct club choices, we should be able to put together some solid rounds."

Last year, the Lady Bulldogs finished third in the region tournament.

Rockdale senior Kayla Kelly will be one of the contenders for the girls medalist honor. Kelly won the individual region title two years ago and finished third last season.

Salem's Estes feels one of the keys to victory will be good shots off the tee.

"The first thing you are going to have to do is get the ball in the fairway off the tee," he said. "Innsbruck is a tight golf course. Of course, like any tournament, your short game must be good if you want a chance to win."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.