by Rob Grubbs
The Starr’s Mill Panthers continued one of their most successful athletic years in school history as the boys and girls golf teams both won GHSA state championships in Class 5A.
Lead by head coach Bart Waller, the Panthers traveled to Carrollton, Georgia last week to win their first ever golf titles. Both teams took on the best golfers in the state and tough weather conditions on the first day to sprint past the competition in the two-day event. The format of the team championship changed this year from an 18-hole to a 36-hole tournament and took the top four individual medal play scores combined for the boys and the top three for girls.
The boys championship was held at the Robert Trent Jones-designed Sunset Hills Country Club. Led by senior and University of Utah signee Andrew Crockett, the Panthers had a two-day total of 595 strokes to beat second place Ola High School by 10 shots and 15 shots ahead of third place Statesboro High School. The McIntosh Chiefs finished with a fourth-place finish just ahead of the hometown Carrollton Trojans.
The first day of the tournament saw the Panthers with a 4-stroke lead but needing a 25-foot putt from Crockett to maintain the advantage going into the second day, which he drained. His shot created excitement in the gallery and generated confidence to end the day. The other players included freshman Luke Phillips, sophomore Mason Mayfield, senior Palmer Wilson, and senior Trevor Munk. Phillips bult a buzz on day two when he almost holed out from the fairway on the 498-yard par 5 for an eagle but settled for a birdie to finish the second round at 1 over.
Jackson Lawlor from McIntosh was the low individual medalist with a two-day total of 141, just beating Crockett by two shots, while Phillips would finish fifth overall. It was the second year in a row that Crockett finished as the individual runner up. Next season he will be competing against the fierce competition in the Pac-12 conference for the Utes.
Not to be outdone, the Lady Panthers easily outdistanced their competition, winning by 21 shots over second place Veterans High School. The girls were led by Jocelyn Gao, who shot 77-78 for a total of 155 and was individual low medalist for the championship. Others included sophomore Liza Eubanks, sophomore Ellie Camp, and sophomore Mary Hunter. The team shot a school one-day record low of 234 to finish out the two-day event.
In addition to Gao’s dominance, Eubanks shot a 77 on day 2, including a run of three birdies over five holes on the back nine to finish fourth overall on the individual scoreboard, only four strokes behind Gao. The McIntosh Lady Chiefs also finished with a strong 7th place showing.
The future at Starr’s Mill looks strong for both squads, as Coach Waller will rely on Phillips and Mayfield to lead the boys and look to replenish the depth that graduated.
“We have several quality freshmen on the team that could not break into the top six but would be starters on a lot of other teams, and they will be champing at the bit to show their quality next season.”
“Although we lose out leader (Gao), we return three of our top four and have a few good golfers waiting in the wings to contribute next year. The girls should compete for the state titles for the next two to three years.”
Starr’s Mill adds to their legacy with these two championships and looks forward to the opportunity to defend next season as the bar has been set high for seasons to come.