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One tourney, two goals
Smith aims at medal; Eagles shoot for top-eight finish in AAAA

COVINGTON - Eastside's Taylor Smith and the rest of the boys golf team will be on a mission when they tee off in the Class AAAA boys state tournament at Bartram Trail Golf Club in Evans on Monday.

Smith's abilities will be put to the test as he tries to become the low medalist in the state, while the rest of the team tries to finish in the top half of the 16-team field.

For Smith, the team's only senior, it would be a great way to end his high school career after already winning the Region 8-AAAA medalist honor in the region tournament.

"I've had a good year so far, so winning individual state would be really nice. I think I can do it. I'll have to play well and stay within myself," he said. "I'll have to break 70, maybe get a 68, 67 to win. The players that will be there are good players so I'll have to play good. Somebody will be on their game that day, maybe it'll be me."

Giving Smith an edge is the fact that he's played the course on two other occasions. Plus, there's a similarity between Bartram Trail and the Eagles' home course at Indian Creek.

"I think it'll be a big advantage that I've played it before. There are a few holes out there that, if you don't know where to hit it, you can make a big number," Smith said. "The greens are fast and it's a hard course. The course somewhat resembles Indian Creek a little bit."

While Smith crushes the ball with his driver and hits approach shots with accuracy, the key to posting the low score will depend on his putter.

"The greens are really nice so, if you hit a good putt, it'll go in. You don't have to guess if it'll hit a bump and go in or it might go straight. I think putting is going to be a big thing," Smith said. "The greens are where you score, where you make the noise."

While the Eastside senior and only upperclassman is going for individual honors, his score will also affect the rest of the team as they are a long shot for the state title.

Joining Smith on the links are sophomores Taylor Lazenby and J.T. Blaker and freshmen Tate Miller and Ace Cook.

Although they are a young group, Eastside boys coach Jay Cawthon said they have the ability and desire to play in the biggest tournament if the season.

Not only do they not fold under pressure, they are all capable of posting a respectable score.

"They don't quit, that showed at region. We were behind going to the back nine and they all came through. They all know that if they play good their score might count toward the team score," Cawthon said. "They're pretty even and that makes the team pretty good. We never know what four scores are going to count. It's happened like that all year. Our No. 6 has counted as much as our No. 4."

Before stepping in the tee box on Monday, the team will be able to play a practice round and discuss strategy.

"You can't step up and hit a driver every tee. You have to hit the fairways, you have to hit the greens and you've got to be able to think your way around the course," Smith said. "I think that we may have to get there and decide what club to hit off certain par 4s and how we're going to score on certain par-3s. Once we do that, I think we should do pretty well."

While winning the team title is not a realistic goal they have set for themselves, they said they can finish in the top half in the state.

"There are 16 teams there and I'd love to finish in the top eight. We have a great chance of doing it. And if Taylor (Smith) plays like he can, he has a chance to win medalist. I do believe that," Cawthon said.

In order to make it happen, the coach feels that they will have to post a team score of at least 320.

"The lowest any Eastside golf team has finished is 11, so we want to beat that. We want to be in the top half, we want a seventh-place finish," Smith said. "We'll need an average of 80 or below."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.