It has been years since the Raiders golf team has made the state tournament, but the senior-heavy 2017 squad could but stab the drought with a strong performance in the area meet next week.
Third-year head coach Matt Hudlow came in to the program in 2015 and had a fairly young group. Now, the Raiders have six seniors, a junior and a sophomore. Much of their success can be attributed to this strong class, who have been no strangers to Hudlow.
“I’ve been with some of them — I was the middle school coach for some of the in 7th and 8th grade,” says Hudlow. “They’re a special group to me. I think they’ve done right by our program.”
You’d have to go back to 2011 the last time the boys team made state, or 2012 when they were represented individually by Lee McCoy, who won the individual state championship that year. The hard work is beginning to pay dividends.
“It’s very important for us to leave something behind,” states senior Ben Cantrell, who shot an 86 at the region meet. “We want to leave [the younger guys] coming up a goal that they can try to match us.”
Hudlow relies heavily on Dawson Fricks, the team’s low medalist who has shot a 74 and 77 at Chattahoochee Country Club, the same place that the Raiders will play their area tournament and state tournament. Fricks, who also shot the lowest at Apple Mountain since McCoy, has elevated his game to a new level the past couple of years. The senior plans to attend North Georgia and play golf there. But first thing’s first — Fricks and the Raiders need to play to their potential in the area meet to earn a spot in the state tourney.
“I just think that course — if you’re hitting the ball well — you can take advantage of it and score on it,” says Fricks on the Chattahoochee course. “If you’re confident, you can take advantage of it”
The Raiders brought home some hardware last week with a runner-up finish in the Region Tournament, finishing behind Gainesville. Fricks’ 77 saw him close shop in 7th place among some 40 golfers. As Hudlow eludes to in the BLITZ video interview, the region meet is moreso for bragging rights and practice, as it no longer is a state-qualifier. Instead, Region 7-AAAAAA and 2-AAAAAA will team up for the area meet, with the top five advancing to the state tournament.