Corey Cusick/ Times-Georgian
Will Cochran proved to be the opening-day storyline for the host squad on Monday at Sunset Hills Country Club.
The Carrollton High School senior fired a 1-over 72 to position himself in a four-way tie for second place in the individual standings for the Class AAAAA boys on Day 1 of the GHSA Golf State Championships.
As a team, the Trojans turned in a round of 318, which put them in a tie for fifth place, trailing Starr's Mill (296), McIntosh (300), Statesboro (302) and Ola (305), while sitting even with Wayne County (318) in the 10-team event.
Cochran rebounded from a rough start that saw him double-bogey the first hole and bogey No. 3. Back-to-back birdies on holes No. 4 and No. 5 quickly turned things around en route to a 1-over 36 on the front nine.
Cochran had another double-bogey on No. 13, but bounced back again with a pair of birdies on No. 16 and No. 18 to shoot even-par on the back nine. Jackson Lawlor of McIntosh shot even-par 71 to lead individually after Day 1.
"We knew coming in that we needed to put a few career rounds together to really have a shot at winning this thing, and we actually put one together [Monday], which is awesome," Carrollton head coach Kurt Hitzeman said. "Will played lights-out. He shot 72 even though he had a double-bogey on the first hole. But he was able to recoup from that and put forth a very good round. Obviously, he has something to play for individually [Tuesday] because he's only one shot off of the lead and he can chase an individual state title."
Rounding out Carrollton's four counting scores from Monday were Cole New (78), Max Schoenfeld (83) and Clay Fontenot (85), while Mario Perezcassar III (89) and Dalton Benefield (105) accounted for the other two scores.
New is sitting in a tie for 22nd place individually, followed by Schoenfeld in a 34th-place tie and Fontenot in a tie for 42nd.
"As a team, we talked the last few days and we felt like a 310 would put us in contention to where we could have a shot. We knew that 310's not going to win it, but that would give us a shot and put us within striking distance," Hitzeman said. "We fell short of that. We did not put four of our best scores together. So we're a little bit on the outside looking in, but we do have some positioning that we can definitely fight for. Right now, a top-four position would be outstanding. We're in fifth right now. You'd always like to bump up a spot if you can. I think if we play our very, very best, it's a possibility."
While all the Trojans beat the weather on Monday, others weren't as fortunate. The back end of the field had to wait out a rain delay before finishing their round, and the outlook for today's final 18 holes could be in jeopardy.
"It could be interesting. It's going to be interesting with course conditions. We'll see how everybody responds to playing a second day. We've played in multiple 36-hole tournaments over the past two years. Our guys are used to it. They're veterans and hopefully will respond and actually improve based on that. That's why we play in those tournaments. So I'm looking forward to [Tuesday]. If we can hold where we're at and improve a bit, I would be very pleased, based on all the adverse weather conditions," Hitzeman said.
Ideally, the second round will go as planned today to finish off the tournament, however if the weather doesn't cooperate, Monday's opening round will serve as the final results.
Hitzeman feels there will be a large enough window to get through today's second round, noting that they'll show up with the intention of playing 18 holes today as originally planned.
"We're going to go with status quo. We'll adjust when the weather adjusts," Hitzeman said. "At this point, nothing has quite been like the forecasts have proposed. But we'll go with it. It's our desire to play 18 more holes [Tuesday]. If we have to do so in the rain the entire time, we will. We'll wear our rain gear and we'll get going."
Regardless if it winds up being a two-day event or just one day, Hitzeman said you can't complain about the competitive nature of the state showcase.
"It's been a great tournament. The course has held up well. We've got everything in. The course has played tough, which is what we expected it to. The course protects par. It's been a good test of golf. It's a shot-maker's course. So we're very pleased with how the tournament as a whole has gone," Hitzeman said.