GUYTON — South Effingham's girls golf team made history by qualifying for the state championship meet, a first for the Mustangs program.
Bella Sapp, Abbie Cheney, Carson Taylor and Logan Byrd are the top four athletes who will represent the Lady Mustangs at Braelin Golf Club in Peachtree City.
“Our girls have been spectacular and we believe they have more in them to compete well at big tournaments,” coach Judson Alford said. “With two juniors and two freshmen, our girls shot a top five combined score for the area tournament when compared to the rest of the girl teams in the AAAAA classification.”
It’s been a long time coming for Taylor, who put her best foot forward on the links from day one. Despite battling butterflies during the regular season, she is hoping her nerves will die down before she tees off in the state tourney next week.
“Being able to go to state on a team that hasn’t been before is somewhat bitter sweet,” said Taylor. “In one sense, I’m incredibly proud of our work this year and can’t wait to compete against other great teams. I know our team is qualified and will do well amongst the other schools. Yet, I am also very nervous and anxious about the state tournament.
"The pressure will be on during those 36 holes as we all try to make South Effingham proud.”
And although jitters may have gotten the best of Taylor in the past, Alford is all smiles and full of confidence.
“We expect to make a splash at the state tournament,” said Alford. “We are a young team, but a motivated team.”
Alford's boys team has much to celebrate as well, breaking a five-year drought of no postseason action. Logan Wise, Logan Sapp, Aaron Elmore, Nicholas Hofmann, Landon Gresham and Sam Tootle make up the team of Mustangs who will test their luck at Planterra Ridge Country Club in Peachtree City.
“Our senior boys have paved the way for our younger players and helped coach them just as Coach Raley and I,” said Alford. “Our expectations have been and will remain high for both our teams.”
South Effingham is bracing for stiff competition.
“We are playing programs at the state tournament that field some top-notch programs with historic success,” said Alford. “Schools like Starrs Mill, Buford and Carrolton will all be present. We plan to compete at the highest level and at our absolute best come time to tee it up.”
It won’t be walk in the park for either of his squads in what is expected to be humid conditions and high altitude. The Mustangs, who are used to competing a flat course, will be faced with the challenge of walking up and down a course filled with hills, making it that much more difficult. Still, the Mustangs welcome adversity knowing it makes for a possible great story in the end.
“Preparing for the state tournament is a daunting task,” said Alford. “The main reason — elevation. Most state competitions are held in Macon, Augusta or Atlanta, which are homes to many golf courses with 'hilly' areas. Learning to control your breathing is essential when walking these types of courses. Many may not think much about it, but having to keep a good pace and playing well is difficult when the ground isn't level.
"For the most part, we will stick to our normal practice routine. We have somewhat joked about getting on stair masters (with bags on their backs) to condition for the elevation we will face.”
Alford can smile knowing both teams have secured a spot in the AAAAA state playoffs and no matter the outcome, the Mustangs family will be proud.
“To say we are extremely proud of our players is an understatement,” said Alford. “They've worked hard and set goals that we've achieved time and time again. Our focus now is to prepare and have fun in the process as we gear up for state.”