Most spring sport athletes in Georgia likely are having mixed feelings about the cancellation of their seasons. Arguably, the strangest juxtaposition of emotions would have to be felt by golfers, who lost out on a high school season but could have played dozens of rounds — safely — in the weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak.
As it were, heavy rainfall early in the year, plus a typically backloaded schedule, kept Bartow County golf teams from being able to compete almost at all even before the coronavirus pandemic.
The boys and girls teams from Cartersville and Woodland faced off in nine-hole matches March 9 at Cartersville Country Club. That was the only match involving local teams all season, as neither Adairsville nor Cass were able to compete even once.
Golf might not be one of the first sports that comes to mind when talking about athletic prowess in the county. That being said, three local teams qualified for state last year, and it appeared as though that would be the case again in 2020.
In fact, the Cartersville boys were among the frontrunners for the Class 4A state championship. Last year, a Canes squad with no seniors placed fourth.
“We’ve got to make sure we take advantage of every opportunity we’re given,” Cartersville head coach Reggie Perkins said. “We felt like we had a really good chance this year. The guys worked really hard this offseason to get ready for the season. It’s really disappointing to see it come to an end this way.”
The Canes, who had 12 boys and three girls, came out on top in the aforementioned boys and girls matches against the Wildcats. The boys were looking sharp despite having Georgia commit Buck Brumlow injured to begin the year. He has since healed up and actually placed third in the Chattahoochee Junior Classic this past weekend in Gainesville, because the non-school affiliated tournaments have resumed.
The lone pair of seniors for Cartersville — Dalton Henson and Chanc Willis — each produced top-25 finishes over the weekend, as well, in the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour event. Henson, a Reinhardt commit, finished in a tie for 16th, while Willis was one of four players tied for 21st.
“I really feel for those guys, Dalton and Chanc, they really worked at it,” Perkins said of missing out on their senior seasons. “They still work at it, they love the game and they were really looking forward to their senior years. They had done everything we’d asked them to do and more. I really hate to see their high school careers end in that fashion.”
One of the local teams to join the Cartersville boys as state qualifiers last year was the Woodland girls, who placed 11th. After graduating a pair of their top players, head coach Colman Roberts wasn’t bullish on their chances to return to state in a tough area.
However, Roberts did believe his boys team was primed to make a push for the 5A tournament.
“It was tough,” he said. “We felt good about it. They’re playing on their own now with social distancing and away from me. We talked about it. Play all fall and all summer, and hopefully, we’ll get a shot at it next year.”
Although new region/area assignments could impact their chances, the Wildcats will have the benefit of returning all but one player from each team. The only boys senior was Logan Stokes, and the lone girls 12th-grader was Cassie Moore.
With the season having been cut so short, Roberts admitted he would probably look to get the team together for some offseason work. That is if the GHSA lifts its current ban on all organized activities, including practices.
“We usually don’t do anything golf-wise in the summer together,” Roberts said. “With this happening, if they do allow us to do anything, I’m pretty much 100% going to get those kids out here.”
While the boys teams at Cartersville and Woodland should be able to challenge again next season for spots in the 5A state tournament, the Adairsville girls team likely saw its window close this spring, at least for the time being.
After using a trio of juniors — Lindsey Angland, Maycee Gwin and Cortni Jacobs — to take the program to the 3A state tournament last year, when the Tigers wound up 12th, that group is graduating with only two rising juniors to replace them.
“I think they were really looking forward to this year,” Adairsville head coach Jon Cudd said of his senior girls. “This group would have probably went to state three out of the last four years.”
Jacobs is signed to continue her career at Truett McConnell, and if the Tigers qualified, she seemed likely to improve upon her performance last year at state, where she finished tied for 22nd. On the boys side, Adairsville appeared to have strength in numbers with 15 golfers competing. Luckily for that group, only one (Evan Crane) was a senior.
It’s a difficult situation for his players to go through, but Cudd believes they have handled it well.
“They’re disappointed, obviously, but they understand they aren’t the only ones in this boat,” Cudd said. “There are far worse scenarios that people are going through out there. … I think they understand there are some things out there beyond our control.”
Speaking of which, new Cass golf coaches Casey Page and Darin Cooper had to suffer through the constant bad weather the first few weeks of the year only to see the season end before it even truly began.
Page had to recruit heavily to fill out her roster, which included a junior and five freshmen. The rising senior was the only person on Page’s team that had ever played golf before. Even though they didn’t get in any matches, Page believes her girls will return to the sport next season.
“They all seem to enjoy it, so hopefully, that will continue,” she said. “We were starting from scratch with five newbies who didn’t even know the game or rules. … They were really wanting to play this year, so next year, they will be really excited to go back out there and try again.”
While his team only got to practice at the country club once before the season was canceled, Cooper had been encouraged by what he had seen from his eight-person team, which included a pair of seniors — Braden McMicken and Heath Chatham.
“I don’t know what anybody else had, but I think we would have had a competitive group,” Cooper said. “I had a couple of seniors and a couple of good solid juniors.”
So what do you do when the season is canceled in your first year in charge? For Cooper, he's looking ahead already to the future. He wants to see the Colonels make incremental improvements in the hopes of building a program that’s always vying for a spot in the state tournament.
“We may never be world beaters, but I want to be competitive,” Cooper said. “That’s the biggest thing is to be competitive, enjoy the sport and have fun while doing it.”