Along with the individual novelties, there was also a new team champion crowned with Westminster capturing the title from the 17-team field behind a 294 tally, marking the first squad other than Class AAAAA power Harrison to win the Invitational in four years.
The talk of the day around the course, though, proved to be the play of Ringgold junior Thomas Brooks, who turned in a 4-under par 68, earning him low medalist honors and the new Invitational record. Additionally, Heritage, Catoosa’s Grant Allen drilled the first hole-in-one in the tournament’s eight years of running on hole No. 8.
Needless to say, it made for quite the day for tournament host and Central High School golf coach Don Riggins.
“Wow. A lot of new things this year. We had our first hole-in-one of our tournament, so that’s very exciting. Then we had [Brooks] with a new tournament record of 68. The kid shot 68 last week at Orchard Hills in Newnan, so he’s a really good player. He’s a junior, so I expect to hear his name a little bit more out there in high school golf,” Riggins said.
Following Westminster’s 294 was Lovett with 313 and Kell with a 315, names and numbers that didn’t surprise Riggins all that much.
“As I predicted, Westminster and Lovett were the top-two teams and Kell came in with No. 3 three. And, of course, they were led by Michael Hines, who is going to Georgia Tech. He’s a great player, as well. So pretty much everything I expected,” Riggins said.
There were three local teams competing, along with two individuals, with host Central, Bremen and Haralson County bringing full squads, while Carrollton had a pair of players on the course Saturday.
Bremen recorded the top local team score, finishing in eighth at 340, while Haralson County was 14th (373) and Central came in 16th (400). Carrollton’s Nick Fazio fired a 72 for the lowest score of the locals, while fellow Trojan Nick Gainey shot an 81.
Leading Bremen was senior Jack Stumpfig with a 78, while Chandler Entrekin (85), Landon Smith (88), Cody Robinson (89) and Charlie Robinson (96) rounded out the Blue Devils’ scorers.
For Haralson County, Junior Matt Smith had the low score of the day at 83, followed by Bryce McElroy (87), Ethan Davis (94), Cody Sanders (109) and Jeffrey York (121).
Central was paced by sophomore Matt Rickles’ 83, while James Cochran (93), Zack Williams (110), Russ Gordon (114) and Daniel Thompson (124) rounded out the rest of the Lions’ finishers.
Bremen coach Stephen Anderson said with bringing three freshmen on Saturday — Entrekin, Smith and Charlie Robinson — he thought it was a good showing for his team.
“So it was their first high school tournament. It was kind of shaky for some of them, but it was good for experience. This was the first tournament we had this season going into spring break. Our next tournament is not until April the 9th at Sunset [Hills] in Carrollton, so I’m excited just for them to get this experience in,” Anderson said.
Anderson said his team has played well in its matches leading up to the Invitational, dropping just one thus far.
“But other than that [one], we’ve been playing pretty good. You know, we’re just trying to get everything to come together at the right time,” Anderson said.
The Blue Devil coach said he hopes to have everyone playing well by the Region 6-A Tournament at Coosa Country Club in Rome later this spring. And with so much youth on the squad, Anderson said it only bodes well for the future.
“I had 11 come out and eight were freshmen. So I’m excited to have the growth coming in. And, of course, it’s nice to have those experienced ones to provide a little guidance for the young ones. It gives me a lot of hope for the coming seasons,” Anderson said.
HC coach Chris Rampy is also enduring somewhat of a youth movement, and he thought his team performed well on Saturday, too.
“Not bad. We’re very young. When you graduate five players from last year’s team and you’re basically starting over, I thought they did well,” Rampy said. “They’re not happy about it, but we’ve got some things we need to work on.”
The Rebel coach said his squad understands what it needs to work on before returning to Oak Mountain on April 23 for the Region 6-AAA Tournament.
“We’re in a very tough region. You’ve got Columbus and LaGrange and that bunch. They’re going to have some players,” Rampy said. “We’ll have to shoot a whole lot better than we did [Saturday] to be able to compete.”
As for Riggins, the Lion coach said Rickles continues to lead the way and is showing plenty of promise in being just a sophomore.
“I just constantly see him improving. He’s 17 strokes better than last weekend’s tournament. He’s young and it’s just more mental with him than physical. So we’ve just got a little growing pains to get through, but he’s going to be a really good player,” Riggins said.
Along with Rickles’ effort, Riggins was also upbeat about the performance from a newcomer to the squad on Saturday.
“Of course, James Cochran hasn’t played golf with us and he’s a junior this year. New on the team and he comes in with a 93, so I’m real proud of him,” Riggins said.
As far as the Invitational as a whole goes, Riggins said the weather cooperated after a little scare with some rain Friday afternoon and evening, but the competition was strong once again.
Riggins was also grateful to the staff at Oak Mountain and head golf professional Kevin Gibbs for allowing him to host the event on a Saturday.
“Overall, it was a great day. Just again, I want to give credit to the guys out here that helped me put this on. I couldn’t do it without Kevin and his staff. I appreciate the members allowing us to come in on a Saturday,” Riggins said.