DALTON, Ga. - Opposing coaches at the Georgia Class AAAA boys' golf tournament were in awe, as were other northwest Georgia coaches driving back from other parts of the state.
Marist obliterated the field and Dalton Golf and Country Club on Monday to win the state championship with a 9-under-par 279. The War Eagles beat runner-up Richmond Academy by 18 strokes.
Five of the six Marist players competing shot under par, and only four scores count toward the team total. Coach Jeff Decker had four players shoot 1-under 71, and one of them had to be the team's drop score.
"All of my players could have had the round of their lives at even par and we would have been smoked," Dalton coach Chad Jordan said. "Nobody expected a 279. That's incredible."
Marist freshman Will Chandler earned medallist honors with a bogey-free 6-under 66. Each of his four teammates who shot 71 tied for runner-up and no other team's players broke par.
"I hit the ball well and I made a ton of putts, and I think I had only 27 putts," said Chandler, whose dream is to play for the University of Georgia and likely caught the attention of Bulldogs coach Chris Haack, who watched his signee Jack Larkin in the group ahead of Chandler. "I think I made a good impression. I played pretty well today."
The War Eagles won their second straight state championship and bettered their score from last year by 21 strokes.
"Everything came into place today, and four of the guys had season lows," Decker said, adding that his team did not incur one penalty stroke. "It's pretty remarkable to have five kids under par in high school."
Northwest Whitfield led the four area teams that have spent part of the last few weeks practicing at Dalton Golf and Country Club. The Bruins shot a season-low 313 and placed fifth with seniors Sam Speights and Silas Ledford and sophomore Ethan Hayes shooting 78s.
"We all played pretty solid for our team, and a few of us could have done better, including myself," Speights said. "It's good to go out knowing we played our best of the year in the last tournament.
"You just can't compete with a team that throws out a score that's under par."
Dalton finished in seventh place with Jack Brown shooting a 75 and Allen Behr shooting 77. The Catamounts were three strokes better in their region tournament.
"On the whole, they did OK," Jordan said. "The young guys came through."
LaFayette placed eighth with a 321 in the Ramblers' first state tournament in five years. Kurt Ingram shot a 78 as one of six starters who should return to the team next year.
"We think our best is ahead of us, and finishing in the middle of the pack is OK with us because we can't wait to see what the future holds," LaFayette coach Tom Langford said. "The kids had never played in anything like this before. It will serve us well next year."
Heritage placed 11th with a 326 and freshman Ben Rebne leading with a 78 on a course saturated with overnight rains but made playable for golfers by 10 a.m.
Marist had no problem with the course, its condition, an alternating breeze or anything else.
"They're a talented and focused group of kids," Decker said. "Driving over here, there wasn't a sound on the bus."
They made up for it with celebratory cheers.