Cartersville Country Club overtook some of the state’s top contenders in the final round, leaping to the top of the leaderboard with a 5-under-par 211 to win by four shots over St. Ives Country Club of Johns Creek at the 19th annual Georgia State Golf Association competition, which took place at The Georgia Club on Saturday and Sunday.
Chase Jones and Jayce Stepp of Cartersville, Chris Hall of Kennesaw and Cres Dodd of Calhoun found themselves in the middle of the pack as Cartersville Country Club was tied for 14th place after the opening round.
“We sort of put ourselves behind the eight ball. We were nine back; we were in 14th place,” Stepp said. “We didn’t have much expectations going in other than let’s play good [and] see if we can move up the leaderboard.”
In the final round Cartersville Country Club capitalized on a 69 from Hall, a 70 from Jones and a 72 from Stepp to make its charge. Including its 1-under-par 143 on Saturday, Cartersville Country Club finished at 6-under 354 for the championship.
St. Ives Country Club finished as runner-up in the event for the second straight year, scoring a 2-under 358. Hamilton Mill Golf Club of Dacula finished third at 1-under, while The Club at River Forest of Forsyth and defending champion Rivermont Golf and Country Club of Johns Creek tied for fourth at even-par 360.
Another Bartow County-based team came in the top 20 as Barnsley Gardens — Brent Sizemore of Calhoun, Travis Kettering of Adairsville, Larry Clark of Kingston, Martin Ball of Rome — shot a final round 237 to place 20th with a 20-under par 380.
“It just seems like … we got out there and through about 11 or 12 holes we were just holding our own,” Stepp recalled of the final round. At that point, he said Jones was even, he was at 1-under and Hall, who was playing two holes in front of the pair, was at 3-under.
“Chase really picked up his game. He played 2-under the last five or six holes,” he continued. “Chris Hall was able to just continue to get his score [down]. … We shot a combined 5-under. We were the only team under par in the individual matches.”
Hall was one of two players to shoot a field-low 69 on Sunday. He was matched by Scott Macdonald of Suwanee/Laurel Springs Golf Club, which tied for eighth with Atlanta’s Cherokee Town and Country Club.
Because of a shotgun start around 10 a.m. — the final round was delayed 30 minutes due to frost — Stepp said no one knew what the leaderboard would foretell with scores all coming in about the same time.
“We were all standing around. … We really couldn’t tell,” he said. “Most of the scores were in the high 70s so nobody was really playing that well.”
First-round leader Champions Retreat of Evans fell to 10th place overall, counting scores of 75, 77 and 80 in the final round to finish at 6-over 366.
As other teams dropped, Cartersville Country Club benefited — which hasn’t always been the case.
“This event comes down to the final day every year, and we know that because we’ve lost. One year we had about an 8-shot lead [and lost the tournament]. … There’s so much riding on more than one person,” Stepp said. “Every year it’s always different players, but we’re able to put one of the best teams in [the tournament]. … The second day, we just haven’t been able to put enough scores together to maintain the lead or get the lead and win the tournament.
“This year, we thought we were bringing the best team we’ve had in the last four years.”
Stepp acknowledged that everything came together to create the perfect conditions for Cartersville Country Club’s riveting come-from-behind victory.
“We just got lucky and we sort of gelled perfectly the last day,” he said. “The help was the weather conditions made it a tough golf course and everybody came back to the field.”
And there was Cartersville Country Club, laying in the wake to make its grab for a long-awaited championship.
“We knew we had the talent. We knew we were one of the better teams. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way,” Stepp said.
Having come close to a championship before, many have wondered if this Georgia Team Championship was more nerve-wracking for Cartersville Country Club considering its previous history.
“It’s one of those things people ask. … Actually it was less stressful because we just went out and played,” Stepp reasoned.
The win may not only be the first Georgia Team Championship for Cartersville Country Club but perhaps the first GSGA event won by anyone or team in Bartow County.
“I don’t know anybody in Bartow County, Cartersville Country Club or the city of Cartersville that ever won a Georgia State Golf Association event,” Stepp said.
The rarity of it all and the height of such a magnificent accomplishment has led to an outpouring of support.
“There’s no telling how many people who really follow golf have already called to congratulate us,” Stepp added. “It’s awesome, really, when you think of it because it’s more for the city of Cartersville and for the Cartersville Country Club. … When you win you don’t want to just celebrate it with yourself. That’s no fun.
“It’s just another thing we can say that Cartersville has done to put our name out there.”
Much like the Cartersville High baseball program, which has won five state championships, has experienced prolonged success to help bring the city notoriety, the Cartersville golf scene has enjoyed its own success and now has a championship to show for it.
“Our golf program over the years has been very strong,” Stepp said. “This won’t be the only one. Finally we got the monkey off our back. Maybe we can win multiple championships.”
Stepp seemed to beam when considering the fact that Cartersville Country Club’s name will be engraved on a trophy that dates back to the early 1900s, when the tournament began before a format change in the last two decades.
“This is one of the oldest tournaments. … Now Cartersville Country Club will be on there forever … and maybe we can add to it,” he said. “When you go every year for 10 straight years … it’s nice to say we finally won one and I was still a part of it.”
— Information from the Georgia State Golf Association website was used in this article.