State golf preview: Im-led Lambert girls seek fourth straight title

Sara Im plays a shot on the 12th hole during the the quarterfinals of the 2023 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Credit: USGA Museum

Credit: USGA Museum

Sara Im plays a shot on the 12th hole during the the quarterfinals of the 2023 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash. on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

The Lambert girls golf team hopes to end the Sara Im era with its fourth straight state championship when the Class 7A tournament begins today.

Im, a senior, will play in her final high school tournament. The Vanderbilt signee has played in six tournaments this year and won each won. She shot a 65 at Crystal Falls in Dawsonville and set a course record when she won the Area 4 tournament.

Im last year teamed with Lilburn’s Thienna Huynh to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. Last week she and Huynh were medalists at the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball, but lost in the second round of match play. She won the Georgia Women’s Amateur in 2020.

“The Divine Miss Im” has been the most impactful Georgia high school player since Jenny Bae, who graduated from Collins Hill and became a star at the University of Georgia.

But the talent doesn’t stop there. Sophomore Athena Yoon won four individual titles this year – the events that Im didn’t play – and shot 69 at the area tournament. Zoe Duval (73 at area) and freshman Hannah Mun (74) could start for anyone. And the team finished the year undefeated.

“It’s been special to be a part of it all,” Lambert coach Shane Fortenberry said. “It’s unique to the culture at Lambert High School that they all make it a priority.”

The 7A girls tournament will be a Sunset Hills in Moultrie, where the Longhorns will be pushed by Area 3 champion Walton and Area 1 champion Lowndes.

“This is not going to be easy,” Fortenberry said. “This might be the most competitive field we’ve seen at the state meet. There are five teams that can put three girls in the 70s. Our girls know they have to show up and play. They’ll have to earn it.”

The state tournaments for boys and girls in all eight classifications will be held Monday and Tuesday at sites throughout Georgia. All championships are 36 holes.

Class 7A boys: Milton goes for its third straight championship at Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta in a very competitive field that includes Lambert, which beat the Eagles by a shot at the Area 4 tournament. Walton and Harrison are the main challengers, along with Carrollton and Lowndes.

Class 6A boys: Johns Creek goes for its seventh straight state championship at Jekyll Island’s Pine Lakes Course. But the favorite may be Gainesville, which beat the Gladiators in the Area 4 tournament. Creekview, Newnan, Marist, Lakeside-Evans and Glynn Academy should also contend in a star-studded field.

Class 6A girls: Glynn Academy is the defending champion and will be the team to beat again at Jekyll Island’s Indian Mounds Course. Alpharetta may be the top challenger.

Class 5A boys: Starr’s Mill, the 2022 champion, moved down in classification, so there will be a new winner when the championship is hosted at Cartersville Country Club. Cambridge, Chattahoochee, Calhoun, Northgate and Greenbrier all have the depth needed to win it all. Cartersville was second at the area tournament, but could use its home-course advantage to score a win.

Class 5A girls: Ware County won it all last year, but the Gators aren’t the favorite this week when the event is hosted at Fields Ferry Golf Club in Calhoun. Greenbrier beat Ware in the Area 1 tournament and is considered the team to beat. Northview and Northside Columbus could be in the mix as challengers.

Class 4A boys: This tournament, hosted by Whitewater Creek Country Club in Fayetteville, may be the most intriguing. The field includes two-time defending champion North Oconee, four-time defending Class 3A champion Westminster and three-time defending Class 2A champion Lovett.

Lovett beat North Oconee by two at the Area 1 tournament. Westminster, although not as formidable as last year’s powerhouse, won the Area 4 championship. Wayne County and Benedictine also have the depth to make a run.

Class 4A girls: North Oconee goes for its third straight title at Braelinn Golf Club in Peachtree City. Camryn Wright, second at state a year ago, leads North Oconee, who should be challenged by perennial power Starr’s Mill, Westminster and Lovett.

Class 3A boys: Westminster moved up in classification, leaving the title vacant. Top contenders are Savannah Country Day, Wesleyan, Richmond Academy and Columbus, which could have an advantage since the tournament is being hosted by Bull Creek in Columbus.

Class 3A girls: The favorites at Maple Ridge Golf Club in Columbus appear to be Columbus and Savannah Country Day, led by Mary Miller, considered one of the top juniors in the state. Savannah Country Day won the Class A Private title last spring.

Class 2A boys: Mount Paran Christian will be the team to beat, with Vidalia, Banks County, Rockmart and Athens Academy joining the hunt at Okenfenokee Country Club in Blackshear.

Class 2A girls: Pierce County won the 3A title last year and dropped in classification. The Bears, who play frequently at host Okenfenokee Country Club, are led by MacKenzie Connell. Others expected to contend are Mount Paran, Athens Academy, Jeff Davis and Walker.

Class A Division I boys: Prince Avenue Christian has won two straight titles, but will have to get past Darlington at Arrowhead Pointe in Elberton. Price Avenue is led by Clemson signee Will Baker, who shot 61 in the area tournament. But Darlington had three boys shoot 71 to win its area title. Mount Vernon could also get in the mix.

Class A Division I girls: Darlington and Prince Avenue Christian are the teams to beat at Arrowhead Pointe, with Elbert County and Mount Pisgah capable to making a charge. Darlington is led by sophomore sensation Ther Kotchasanmanee, who was the state medalist last year.

Class A Division II boys: Lake Oconee Academy has won the last state championships at Class A Public and the Titans are the heavy favorite. Christian Heritage, Seminole County and Schley County are the best of the rest. The tournament will be played at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson.

Class A Division II girls: Lake Oconee Academy will be chasing its fifth straight title. Kallyn Black leads the Titans, who will be chased by Hawkinsville, Georgia Military and Charlton County at Belle Meade.