A creek runs down the right side of the fourth hole at Dalton Golf and Country Club.
Dalton High School senior William Duffie laid up short and left of the green on the third hole in trying to avoid the water, knowing the cup was cut just over the water on the far right side of the green.
With one chip and two putts, he scored a par. He made the smart play.
Duffie and each of his teammates would gladly take a par on every hole Monday, when the Catamounts and three other northwest Georgia teams compete for the Class AAAA state boys' golf championship.
Dalton, Heritage, Northwest Whitfield and LaFayette all qualified for the tournament that will be held on a course that gives all four teams -- especially Dalton and Northwest Whitfield -- a home-course advantage. Heritage freshmen Sport Allmond and Ben Rebne finished first and second in the region tournament at Dalton G&CC.
"I'd rather have the pressure of playing at home than the inexperience of playing a new course," Northwest senior Silas Ledford said. "We know what pins you can go at, which ones you can't, and there are some little things where you have to play different yardages.
"We feel comfortable up here."
Duffie, who helped the Catamounts win the Region 7-AAAA championship by one shot over Heritage, has spent most of his high school career playing Dalton Golf and Country Club.
He and fellow seniors Chris Kazmierski and Cole Calfee have one more round remaining in their prep careers.
"It's exciting in some ways, but it's also heartbreaking knowing that you're leaving high school and moving on to college," said Duffie, who plans to play collegiately for Florida Southern. "I feel honored. I'm excited because I get to have my home course in my last round. Hopefully I'll end with a bang.
"There is pressure, but you have to welcome it and not cave into it."
Despite the home-course advantages, none of the teams from the greater Chattanooga area are considered favorites. That pre-tournament title falls to Columbus and Spalding, according to Dalton coach Chad Jordan. Area players, too, know that they are slight underdogs.
"Columbus and Spalding both have really good one and two players," Ledford said. "They'll be in the running; then I think us and Dalton could be in the running because we play out here so much."
The experiences of playing the course should benefit all of the area teams that have spent countless hours playing golf beside Cleveland Highway.
"We'll treat it as just another day at the Country Club," Jordan said. "That's what we have to do because my team is so inexperienced."
Just another day at the club.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...