Golf blog: Powerful Lambert girls take aim at another state championship

Sara Im hits her drive on hole 18 during the second round of stroke play at the 2022 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Chris Keane/USGA)

Credit: USGA Museum

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Sara Im hits her drive on hole 18 during the second round of stroke play at the 2022 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Chris Keane/USGA)

Credit: USGA Museum

In the larger classifications, a girls golf team must count three scores. Usually that means the best teams will have two good players and a third girl who can keep it in double-digits.

That’s not the case with the Lambert girls, who have five players who are capable of breaking 80 – like they did in winning the Area 2 tournament. That’s why the Longhorns are again the favorite to win the Class 7A title for the third straight time and for the fourth time in five years.

The Class 7A championship will be played today and Tuesday at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer.

“We’ve had a lot of girls who have shot some good scores in different tournaments throughout the season,” said Lambert coach Shane Fortenberry. “That’s good thing. Our No. 4, 5 or 6 player – maybe even our No. 8 or 9 player – might play No. 1 or No. 2 for a lot of different teams.”

The top three players in Lambert’s lineup are three of the best in Georgia. Each one was a part of the 2021 National High School Championship team.

Averi Cline, a junior, is a two-time individual state champion who has won the local and regional amateur level. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship and finished 22nd at the 2021 Georgia Women’s Amateur. Cline has signed to play at Western Kentucky. She shot a 74 and finished second at the area tournament.

Iris Cao, a junior, shot a 69 to win the area tournament. She is currently No. 141 in the American Junior Golf Association rankings, where she has a win and a fourth-place showing over the last year. Cao qualified for the 2021 U.S. Girls Junior. She has signed with Dartmouth.

But the most accomplished player is junior Sara Im, who has fully recovered from an early-season injury to win on a national level. She is ranked No. 20 by the AGJA and recently won the Rome Junior Classic. She finished in the top 20 in six of her last AJGA events. Im recently teamed up with her friend Thienna Huynh to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball championship. Last week she qualified to play in the U.S. Women’s Open. Im has committed to play at Vanderbilt.

Lambert also has three freshman who have contributed this season. Each has won an event along the way and shot under 80 at the area tournament: Emerson Elm, Zoe Duval and Athena Yoo, who is ranked No. 327 in the nation.

Fortenberry said it remains a big deal for the girls to play for their high school and compete for a championship.

“It’s something to be able to say you’re a state champion,” he said. “It’s also a team event, so it’s a little different from AJGA. This is a team and their approach is a little different. I think they enjoy tha spect of it.”

Lambert will face a big challenge in Walton, the Area 3 winner. The Raiders also have three players who are capable of shooting in the 70s in Saanvi Venkatesh, Annika Gomeyac and Tatum Thompson.

“It’s not going to be a cakewalk like it was last year,” Fortenberry said. “Last year was comfortable. We were leading after the first round and just kind of built on that.”