Eastside golfers take experience to state

COVINGTON - The unknown became clear to the Eastside boys golf team after appearing in the Class AAAA state tournament last season.

The Eagles will try to use that knowledge as they attempt to win a Class AAA golf championship Monday at Waynesboro Country Club.

"We put too much pressure on ourselves because it was all of our first time. Now we know what it feels like," junior Tate Miller said. "If all of us bring even our 'B' game, I think we have a really good chance. We just can't have bad scores. Two bad scores will kill us."

Of course, other teams know what to expect as well, making the Eagles' journey even more difficult as they tackle a course they know nothing about.

"We won't know the major challenges until we get down there and play our practice round because no one has seen this course," Eastside coach Jay Cawthon said. "Everybody played in state last year, which is a big advantage. They know what the atmosphere is like and they know what type of pressure they're going into. I don't think our kids feel any pressure. There's more pressure at region than there is at state."

Eastside earned its trip to Waynesboro, located 25 miles south of Augusta, by winning the Region 8-AAA tournament shooting a 326 at Hard Labor Creek in Rutledge.

If the Eagles hope to win state they will have to improve on that score.

Posting the lowest scores in their region tournaments were North Hall and Lumpkin, both from Region 7-AAA. North Hall shot 302 while Lumpkin posted 303.

"I looked at the team region scores and we've shot a 300 before. A 300 would've beat all the team region scores," junior J.T. Blaker said. "If we play our game and play smart we have a legitimate shot at (winning state)."

Representing Eastside will be Miller, Blaker, Taylor Lazenby, Nick Green, Ace Cook and Justin Norris.

"Ace Cook, Nick Green and J.T. Blaker have been solid all year. Taylor Lazenby has been improving, too. He shot an 84 at region, which was a good score," Cawthon said. "On the last hole he had a tremendous up and down. With all the gallery there, he stayed calm."

Miller, Eastside's No. 1 golfer, has a 73 average this season. While winning state is the ultimate goal, Cawthon wants to finish in the top five.

"We finished seventh at state last year. I told the kids that we'd like to get top five, top three. But if we play and shoot like we can, there's no reason why we can't win state," Cawthon said. "You just never know, especially in this game, if you have a good day. I told them we can play with anybody there."

Other teams playing at state include St. Pius X (304), West Laurens (315), Carrollton (316), Lafayette (317), Burke County (318), Columbus (320) and Woodward (321).

"I want to go out there and try to hit the fairways and the greens and not do anything stupid. I just want to play smart golf," Blaker said. "I'd like to be in the (individual) top 10 and have the team be in the top five."

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