RUTLEDGE - The air felt cool and the greens felt fast Wednesday morning at the Hard Labor Creek golf course. But mostly for the Eastside boys golf team, it felt like a championship.
The Eagles shook off windy conditions and slick greens to capture the first boys region golf title in school history, out-lasting Elbert County, 326-328 in the 8-AAA final.
Tate Miller and J.T. Blaker each shot a 78 to finish tied for second and came up with big shots on the back nine. Miller birdied 17, one of four on the day for the sophomore, and Blaker shook off a frustrating day putting with a clutch birdie on 18 helped clinch the title for the Eagles.
"I couldn't get anything to fall all day," said Blaker, who was visibly frustrated after a handful of missed putts. "I said '(hole 18) would be a really good time to sink one;' I capped it nicely."
"Tate and J.T., 78, is something special in these conditions," added Eastside coach Jay Cawthon. "It's some of the toughest conditions I've seen (but) as the old saying goes, they grinded it out. I'm real proud of the guys."
Junior Taylor Lazenby added two birdies on the back nine to shoot an 84 for the day and finish tied for sixth, while sophomore Ace Cook added an 86 and placed seventh.
"It feels great; (winning the region title) was one of our goals," Cawthon said. "This is probably one of the toughest ... golf regions. We're happy; real happy."
The Eastside girls struggled, finishing seventh with a score of 223 as freshman Emily Almand shot a 109 and junior Maggie Smith added a 114. The girls were one of the youngest teams in the region, with two sophomores, Jessi Lindsey and Madison Raynor, rounding out the foursome Wednesday. Coach Jason Grooms said the experience will help in the future.
"It was good experience," Grooms said. "A couple girls that had never been in a region tournament before (got to play in one). The more time you play in these the more comfortable you, get, kind of get your feet wet. We played hard."
Eastside's boys will now prepare for the Class AAA state tournament, which begins May 4 at the Waynesboro Country Club.
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org