Cherokee won its region championship a season ago, but Creekview got the county title.
But much has changed since then. Instead of four golfers competing per team, with two scores counting toward a team’s total, the top three scores now count.
“It’s going to make a lot of changes,” Cherokee coach Robin Roper said. “Most teams have two girls that score low, but now that you have to count three, it’s harder.”
Essentially, teams will have to find a little more depth in order to rise to the top. In boys golf, each team has six golfers on the course, with the top four scores counting, meaning two players can have bad rounds and it not affect the team.
For the girls, it’s stricter.
“We aren’t getting more girls out on the course,” Roper said. “We are just counting more scores. It would be different if we had five girls on the course and three scores count, but we don’t.”
At schools like Cherokee, it can be tough to find four girls for a larger roster. The rule change works in favor of larger programs, such as the ones at Milton or Walton, where dozens of girls go out for the team.
In addition to the scoring changes, a sectional competition was added between the region and state championships. Instead of the top two finishers in each region going to state, the top four placers at the region go on to sectionals. From there, the state competitors are determined.
Cherokee, which went on to finish second in the Class AAAAA state championship last year, returns two players from that team. Amanda Burton and Sydney VanAlystyne are back, but Roper still feels like the team is rebuilding after the rules changes.
Woodstock coach Derek Engram will try to blend old and new and come up with a winning formula. The Lady Wolverines return veterans Brittany Erdeman, Madison Blackburn and Marissa Helling.
Erdeman, a senior, has played with the varsity team since she was a freshman and is looking to post some low scores this year. Blackburn, a junior, has worked hard since last season and, according to Engram, is rising to become one of the best golfers in the team’s history. Helling, also a junior, is in just her second season on the team, but has shown tremendous signs on improvement.
Also returning are Chelsea Endler and Silvana Bravo. Freshmen Madi Dalton, Alex Camerlengo and Emily Zimmerman are new additions.
“Each of these girls are highly motivated to contribute to this year’s team,” Engram said.
At Creekview, expectations are high, according to coach Casey Gramling. Three players — Whitney Stevenson, Kailtlin Hinson and Meghan Nay — return, with freshman Claire Roop a key addition.
Last year, the Lady Grizzlies were the Region 7AAAA runner-up and finished sixth in Class AAAA.
Stevenson, a senior, is the reigning county champion and, according to Gramling, has improved in the offseason. She won the Athens Junior Shootout and dropped her handicap below 4.
“Her leadership will play a big role on the team as well,” Gramling said.
Hinson, another senior, is entering her fourth year with the team.
“Towards the end of last season, she was consistently shooting in the 40s, and we look for her to continue her improvement and to contribute to the team this year,” Gramling said. “Her leadership will also be a valuable asset.”
Nay is coming back after a productive freshman year, in which she shot in the 30s a couple times, and has yet to reach her full potential, Gramling said. Roop brings tournament experience and is being expected to contribute right away.
At Sequoyah, coach Sharon Peters feels her team is in a good position, although they are still in the midst of tryouts. The Lady Chiefs were young last season and return all of their players.
Seniors Sara Honeycutt, Nisa Freeman and Emily Hershberger are back, as are juniors Libby Gebcza and Griffin Dwyer. Sophomore Lane Lauletta and Anna-Tate Dorner will also bolster the roster, along with freshman Laura Johnson.
Peters doesn’t think the rules change will affect her team much. With two players solidified in the top spots, the Lady Chiefs are just looking for a third golfer who can be consistent.
“We are looking to fill that third spot,” said Peters, who is looking to her sophomores in particular to step up. “We are hoping their scores factor in a bit this year.”