Corey Cusick / Times-Georgian
The goal at the start of the spring campaign was to simply get here.
And now that they've arrived, there's a few new items on the season's agenda.
As the host school for the Class AAAAA portion of the GHSA Golf State Championships, the Carrollton High School girls' golf team is poised to make a push up the standings upon entering the field with the 12th-best qualifying score among the four areas across Georgia.
The Lady Trojans have the luxury of playing in the comforts of Oak Mountain Championship Golf Club in Carrollton, where the quartet of Taylor Gray, Camryn Ramsey, Samantha Pope and Abigail Duke will look to go out on a high note against the best of the best in AAAAA.
"What a great story the girls have been this year. I mean, we come in with the 12th-best qualifying score in the state. Not many people understand what a great accomplishment that is for us," Lady Trojan head coach Kurt Hitzeman said. "We have improved greatly over the past year, over the past two years, to get where we're at."
The Lady Trojans turned in a tally of 306 to run away with the Area 4-AAAAA title, led by the junior Gray, who earned low medalist honors with her round of 87.
Gray noted how the squad has come a long way from the start of the year, where expectations weren't exactly booming for this group.
"At the beginning of the season, we honestly didn't even think that we would make it," Gray said. "But now we're area champs and I'm area low medalist, so it's amazing that we've put in all that work and we've made it to our initial goal for the season."
Starr's Mill (244), Veterans (265) and Walnut Grove (281) are the other three area champions among the field, while Ware County (270), Union Grove (274), Ola (278), Jones County (291), McIntosh (292), Statesboro (292) and Buford (296) all enter Monday's opening round coming off scores of under 300 at their respective area tournaments.
With 15 teams on hand, Carrollton is seeking to finish in the top half of the field, and potentially even better if all the pieces fall into place.
"We know where we're at. Our goals have changed since we accomplished so many of them," Hitzeman said. "So obviously they're shooting for a top-eight finish. It'll take two excellent days of play from them. But they're playing on what we consider another home course for us. Oak Mountain has been very good to us and always allowed us to be out there when we needed to be. So those girls know Oak Mountain very well, just like our boys know Sunset Hills [Country Club]."
Even though they're No. 12 overall among the qualifying teams, the Lady Trojans will tee off with the other area champions and Hitzeman wants his squad to carry that confidence into next week's showdown.
"We have an area and region champion. We can talk about courses that we've played, areas, different regions, different classifications. But the bottom line is we're area champions," Hitzeman said. "Our goal was to make it to state as a team this year. Now we've made it to state and we're going to be hitting off that first tee at the very beginning with the other area champions.
"We're tickled to death to be where we're at. If we can shoot somewhere right there around 300 with the girls, I think that would be an excellent round for us. If we could shoot it twice, that would be awesome. If we can shoot under 300, it would be icing on the cake."
Gray understands the significance of serving as both the state host and a state qualifier for the end-of-year event. Now it's a matter of going out and representing the Carrollton program in a favorable fashion on and off the course before settling in to summer vacation.
"It's a big deal to all of us. We won area by 40 strokes as a team and I won low medalist by 15 strokes. So we really played well at area. Now that we've got that out of the way, we're trying to have a good finish at state," Gray said. "If we could shoot record-low rounds for all the girls on the team, that would be nice."