High school golf: A look at the state boys championships

The Johns Creek boys are loaded with outstanding golfers this spring. 

But do the Gladiators have enough juice to win their fourth straight Class AAAAAA championship against an exceptional field of competitors? The state championship will be played at Woodmont Golf Club in Canton on May 20-21. 

Johns Creek is led by Andy Mao, a Georgia Tech signee who shot a school-record 65 and won the Area 3 championship. It was the fourth straight year Mao has won the area tournament. Mao won the U.S. Open local qualifier on Thursday and advanced to the sectional, one step away from reaching Pebble Beach. 

The Gladiators also have senior Preston Topper, who verbally committed to Georgia when he was 14 and remains one of the top juniors in the region. Other big contributors are sophomore Deven Patel, freshman Bruce Murphy, senior Joey Moravec and Jake Calamaro. 

But Johns Creek will have its hands full in turning back challenges from Creekview, Cambridge, Dalton, Harrison, Greenbrier, Lakeside-Evans and Glynn Academy. 

Creekview features Jack Vajda, an Augusta signee who was medalist at the state meet in 2018. The Ledford brothers – Luke and Josh – and Tyler Latimer. Plus, the Grizzlies are quite familiar with the landscape at Woodmont, having won the Cherokee County championship there this spring. 

Dalton features Clemson signee Carter Pendley and both Harrison and Cambridge have a deep lineup. 

Here is a look at the boys competition in the other classifications. A similar examination of the girls field will appear on May 16.

Class AAAAAAA: Mill Creek will be trying to win its third straight title at Hamilton Mill in Hoschton, but the Hawks enter as the No. 2 team from Area 4. North Gwinnett won that tournament. Both teams are familiar with Hamilton Mill. Main challengers: The field for the state’s top division is wide open. Lowndes won Area 1 and Hillgrove was the best in Area 2. But the teams to watch are in Area 3, where West Forsyth won the title by a shot over Cherokee and Walton and by three over Lambert; all four are expected to have something to say about who wins the state title. Tanner Brown of Colquitt County, the medalist a year ago, is back to defend his title as a solo act. The Packers did not qualify as a team.

Class AAAAA: Starr’s Mill will travel to Sunset Hills in Carrollton to defend its state championship. The Panthers are led by Area 2 medalist George Langham and have six excellent players. To get an idea of the team’s depth, Luke Phillips was the state medalist last year and he placed fifth on the team at the area competition. Main challengers: Ola came up short against Starr’s Mill in the Area 2 tournament, but brings a solid group. Carrollton, which has some home-course familiarity with Sunset Hills, Buford and Statesboro were the other area champions.

Class AAAA: Columbus is gunning for a fourth consecutive state title at the Country Club of Columbus. Jonathan Parker is one of the best players in the classification – he was the Area 1 medalist -- and anchors a solid group that will benefit from a definite home-course advantage. Main challengers: Richmond Academy, Marist and St. Pius are all loaded. Richmond Academy had four boys shoot 72 or better, including Area 2 medalist Chris Saul. St. Pius, behind Max Muenchen, may be even deeper. 

Class AAA: Westminster’s talent pool is extremely deep, which makes the Wildcats the favorites to defend their title at Cateechee Golf Club in Hartwell. Defending state medalist Sam Lape is one of five Westminster players who shot 72 or better to win the Area 4 tournament. Westminster has won state in two of the last three years. Main challengers: If anyone can catch Westminster, rival Lovett has the best chance. The Lions had six players break 80 at the area tournament still lost by 13 shots. Jefferson, Pierce County and Pike County won the other area titles. 

Class AA: Metter brings a deep team back to defend its title at Oak Mountain in Carrollton. Ian Glanton was the team’s low scorer when it won the Area 1 championship. The Tigers have enough depth to compete in a much higher classification, with Grayson Bowen, Jackson Longgrear, Cade Curl and Will Altman all breaking 80 in the area tournament – something no other team in the classification could boast. Main challengers: Defending state champion Jackson Toole of Vidalia should help keep the Indians in the hunt. Dodge County, Bremen and Elbert County were the other area winners. 

Class A Private: Holy Innocents’ will defend its title at Green Island in Columbus. The Bears are led by Area 3 medalist Cannon Crane and have a deep roster than includes Justin Gahlhoff, Owen Malcolm and Nick Reddy. Main challengers: Prince Avenue Christian, Darlington and Athens Academy all have the quality depth needed to win. William Sluder, last year’s medalist, returns for Brookstone. 

Class A Public: Two-time defending champion Gordon-Lee will put its title on the line at Southern Landings in Warner Robins, but the Trojans won’t be favored. They finished second in Area 3, well behind Drew Charter. Tucker Windham, a co-medalist in 2018, leads Gordon-Lee. Main challengers: Drew Charter has two excellent players in Anthony Ford and Solomon Dobbs and are the likely favorite. Others to watch include ACE Charter, Commerce and Seminole County. Other co-medalists from last year are also in the field – Thad Clark of Schley County and Ryan Smith of Lake Oconee Academy, who advanced as an individual. 

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