Highlands Country Club and The Fields get ready to host boys and girls state tournaments

Published 8:45 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

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For the first time ever, LaGrange High will be hosting the 4A state championship for both boys and girls golf. It has been a long time coming with the Highlands Country Club and The Fields serving as perfect venues for the two-day event.

On Monday, the 12 boys teams from around the state will take to Highlands and 12 girls teams will hit the Fields for a full day of golf. Then, they get to do it all again on Tuesday with the boys and girls teams shooting the lowest combined score over the two days claiming the GHSA 2023-24 4A state championship.

“There are going to be people from around the state staying in a hotel Sunday night, Monday night, for sure. Possibly the Saturday so, you know, we’re excited to have those people here and excited for LaGrange to kind of show out a little bit and provide a little uptick in revenue for the city,” said Ben Thrasher, LaGrange High’s golf coach. “Really what we are most excited about is to showcase these two courses. They’re both phenomenal hosts for us.”

Of course, these tournaments would not be complete without some local flair. Both LaGrange High’s girls and boys teams finished second in their respective area tournaments to qualify for state. Playing on their home courses for the first time at state, the teams are looking to prove they are amongst the very best teams in the state.

“Last year, our girls finished 12 and our boys finished ninth. So we’re looking to improve upon that in both areas and our expectation is that we will,” Thrasher said.

The two venues will offer contrasting, but equally as compelling courses to play. Highlands is heavily dense with trees and requires a deft touch to squeeze in between some narrow fairways.

“It’s a shot-shapers course for sure. it’s tight, small greens, undulated greens, and undulating fairways. It’s a real test of your golf game,” said Chase Epting, Highlands Country Club’s golf pro. “It’s not just going up and hitting this right-to-left shot all day long or this left-to-right shot all day long. You’re gonna come to a different hole and have to just think about what you’re trying to do.”

Highlands has been the LaGrange boy’s home course for as long as anybody with the program has been involved. It’s a fruitful relationship for both parties that will be paying big dividends next week when teams, supporters and families flock to the area and spend money in our local businesses.

“Some families will just be traveling an hour or so, but a lot of families are already traveling for hours to come over here. So it’s growth all the way around and I think it’s great for the economy here,” said Dave Marra, general manager at Highlands Country Club. “When LaGrange grows, we grow. it’s imperative that, that the community get behind it as well, because our growth means their growth and vice versa.”

Highlands has truly embraced LaGrange High golf over the years. Even the members of the club are quick to lend a helping hand, having helped the Area tournament at Highlands run smoothly earlier this month.

“Our membership is excited about that, they like to come out and see these talented kids,” Marra said. “I think we all recognize in clubs today that they’re our next generation of memberships. So we need that activity. So they’re very supportive of allowing them to have the time that they need to get the rounds in. The buzz around the tournament is very, very high around here.”

Under Thrasher, the LaGrange golf program has also built a strong relationship with The Fields. The school has relied on the course more and more in the last couple of years culminating in the venue hosting the girl’s state tournament next week.

“We leaned on The Fields a lot this year, a lot more than we have in the past and they’ve been phenomenal to us.,” Thrasher said. “That’s a great facility they have out there.”

As a public course, hosting this event offers a chance to show off the course and generate more interest from parties around the state. 

“It is a way that we can let people know about the improvements we’re making out here. I mean, The Fields has been in LaGrange since 1989, but there are people within Troup County that probably don’t even know it’s out here,” said Ashley Young, owner of The Fields. “It’s a word-of-mouth opportunity. We’ll have parents from Savannah and South Georgia and different places from all over the state if they’re girls qualified. So while this might be the only time they get to come up here, but they may have some friends or family that are gonna be up this way and they are like, hey, go check out The Fields, or check out LaGrange because they enjoyed their time here.”

The LaGrange girls know the Fields very well, having played this year and last year’s area tournament there as well as practice rounds and other smaller tournaments. This comfortability factor could be huge as the team looks to improve on last year’s 12th-place finish at state.

Unlike Highlands, The Fields is much more open, featuring rolling hills and an almost US Open-like feel to it, Thrasher says. With the summer sun out, it will be a true test for some of the best girls golfers in the state. 

“Ours has definitely a different feel with each of these wide-open vistas. You can really shape your shots because you’re not having to shape your shots through a tree line, so you can be a little more creative,” Young said. “And I do think some people, will enjoy it, especially if you’re coming more from the northern part of the state or Atlanta where a lot of the courses might be a little more tree line.”

Excitement is brewing in LaGrange. This area has some talented golfers and prestigious courses and on Monday and Tuesday, they will be on full display for the rest of the state to see. Playing alongside the LaGrange boys will be Trinity Christian, Starr’s Mill, North Oconee, Lovett, North Hall, Wayne Co., Benedictine, Perry, Holy Innocents’, Westminster and Central Carrollton. Playing with the Granger girls at The Fields will be Trinity Christian, Starr’s Mill, Cedartown, NW Whitfield, Westminster, West Laurens, Southeast Bulloch, Wayne Co., North Oconee, Madison Co., and North Hall.