CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A team is only as good as its players, and the East Hamilton boys' golf squad has never been better.
The Hurricanes advanced to their first state tournament by winning the Region 3-A/AA title Thursday at Chatata Valley.
"I think we have one of the better public school programs around," East Hamilton coach Jeff Stetzler said. "We've gradually gotten better every year, and that's a product of having talent."
East Hamilton won with a four-man total of 329, beating runner-up Sequoyah by 11 shots. Polk County finished third at 343 and Hixson was fourth at 345.
"Our goal coming into the year was to win district and be region champion, and we've done that," Stetzler said. "State is going to be a new experience and it should be a lot of fun. We'll have to play our best.
"But we haven't set any goals for it yet."
East Hamilton sophomore Matt Wilson was runner-up in the medalist race with a 5-over-par 77. He's played in the state as an individual, but he's never been accompanied by his teammates.
"They're my homies," Wilson said. "Those are my boys and I'm glad to go to state with them. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Red Bank junior Ryder Pierce earned medalist honors with a 4-over 76. He will be joined at Willowbrook Golf Club in Manchester on Sept. 27-28 by Evan Ball of Polk County, Paul Houk of McMinn Central and Cameron Gorsline of Grace Academy as individuals.
"I didn't exactly hit it my best today, but my short game was on," Pierce said. "I made a lot of great putts to save par."
Boyd-Buchanan freshman Madison Balthrop won the girls' championship with a 9-over 81, and teammate Lauren Foster shot an 86. They earned the team championship by 13 shots over Sequoyah.
"I didn't focus on the others and I just played the course," said Balthrop, who made three birdies Thursday. "We went to state as individuals last year, but I'm looking forward to going as a team and doing the best we can.
"I think we can play better."
Sequoyah teammates Olivia Raper (88) and Madison Pennington (92) are headed to Manchester as individual players, as are Lydia Triplett (84) of Polk County and Alex Shipley (90) of Grace Academy.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...