Initially, the Raiders only qualified senior Dawson Fricks to go to the 6A State Tournament. But after a wild turn of events, the Raiders golf team was given a late invite.
Fricks still gets to go, but now the experience will be even better, as he’ll have his whole team competing with him.
The Raiders needed a top-five finish out of their Area 2 qualifier last Wednesday at Chattahoochee. After a region runner-up finish, coach Matt Hudlow and the boys knew essentially what they needed to do.
“Based off what we knew about the teams in our area, [I felt] there were six teams truly fighting for five spots,” states Hudlow. “We didnt play well, especially on the front nine, but the guys kept fighting and competing and played a lot better on the back and gave us a chance to finish fifth.” [Raiders Outlook Prior to Area]
As luck would have it, however, the Raiders fell one stroke shy of tying Apalachee for the fifth spot, shooting a 326 as a team. The veteran Raiders team deserved better.
“The boys were obviously disappointed, and when it’s that close you go back and beat yourself up over every hole…if you just had done this we would have won,” explains Hudlow.
Hudlow spoke with Gainesville head coach Bryson Worley and Habersham AD Geep Cunningham, and they both called GHSA to see where things stood. Scores came in from around the state and the Raiders waited on Area 1 to report. GHSA allotted 20 spots in the state championships, and Hudlow and the Raiders felt that if they all did not get filled that Habersham Central could get an “at-large” bid.
Hudlow detailed the results: “We knew that Area 1 had two teams that shot the cut score of 335. And with the other areas reporting, there were 14 teams that had qualified. Only us and Centennial (332) had shot a qualifying score in AAAAAA and were not in. If we were added, then that would be 18 teams.”
Hudlow said that the Raiders golfers kept asking him all weekend if he had heard anything. In the interim, the Raiders played in a two-day tournament at Achasta in which he felt that although the boys played solid, they were a little down from the Wednesday Area results. Habersham finished 13th in a strong field, with junior Cooper Roland shooting a 79 and 80, while Brady Thomas shot 79 and 84.
Cunningham spoke with GHSA over the weekend and informed Hudlow that it looked pretty good for the Raiders, and that they should find out by the first of the week (Monday). Worley then got an updated list of state participants and Habersham was included.
“I am really happy for our guys to get this chance,” exclaims Hudlow. “We have the 15th best score in the state and didn’t play up to our ability. Anything can happen…I feel that we can be a top-10 team at least.”
The State Championship will be held May 22-23 at Chattahoochee once again, where Fricks (74, 77, 74) has had unbelievable success, along with the rest of the team.
“We get to go back to a course we are familiar with and have had success at,” echoes Hudlow. “I think the guys are confident, and more importantly appreciative, of the opportunity, especially the way this all worked out.”
Hudlow stated that while Fricks had qualified as a low medialist, he was sad for his teammates not making the cut initially.
“That is a testament to him as person and shows what kind of team we have,” says Hudlow. “Team golf is a unique dynamic because golf is an individual sport, but in this format every stroke effects the team score as well. They all pull for one another and want to do well for the team.”
It’s been seven years since the Raiders team as a whole qualified for state, although Habersham legend Lee McCoy won a state title individually in 2012.
“It’s good to go back, and a tradition we want to establish for our program,” says Hudlow.
The Raiders and Lady Raiders golf programs will both participate in the State Championships.