In that first season, the Trojans earned the first tournament win in program history with a five-stroke victory at the Cobb County championship. Then, last season, Lassiter took home its first region title after beating Walton in a four-hole playoff before ending the year eighth at the Class AAAAA state tournament.
With their entire roster back for a third straight season, the Trojans had high hopes on duplicating last year’s success — and perhaps even exceeding it. It would be easy to wilt under so much pressure, but Burden kept his players focused in the end.
For the second straight season, Lassiter defeated Walton — this time by one stroke — to win the Region 5AAAAA crown, and the Trojans went on to tie for fourth in the Class AAAAA state tournament with a team score of 308.
For winning another region championship, and scoring a top-five finish at the state tournament, Burden is the 2012 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Golf Coach of the Year, winning the award for the second straight season.
“I’m extremely grateful for this honor and grateful for Lassiter and our principal, Dr. (Chris) Richie, and our (athletic director), Art O’Neill,” Burden said. “They do a fantastic job of allowing us the flexibility, both financially and scheduling-wise, to allow the boys to participate in such a fantastic sport, and to have the type of success we’ve had over the last two seasons, which enables me to experience a little bit of success with them.
“Being a first-year coach three years ago and having this group for three years in a row has made my job enjoyable. I’m losing two seniors in Michael Toler and Andrew Couch, and I still have seven juniors coming back. Sending the seniors out on a positive note and having (the junior) class for three years, with one more coming up, is great.”
And now, in something Lassiter hasn’t experienced in the past, there’s a growing expectation for success.
“We have improved each year,” Burden said. “It will be a stepping stone for next year. The bar has been set. Now, we have to improve on that fourth-place finish at the state and, hopefully, we can.”
Lassiter’s depth proved to be its biggest strength.
Toler, the team’s leading returning golfer, broke his hand prior to the season, forcing Burden to shuffle the lineup around for a few matches. Fortunately, since the team was entering its third season together, the other five golfers — Max Weyrick, Adam Wright, Brody Judd, Parker Usry and Couch — stepped up until Toler returned.
Toler’s insertion back into the lineup helped the Trojans shoot 309 to win region, and his team-best 72 was a big factor in leading Lassiter to its fourth-place tie at state.
“Michael Toler didn’t miss a match, even when he was out with a broken hand,” Burden said. “He was at every match supporting his teammates and supported the guy who stepped in for him. It’s a credit to him, and he’s had a great career at Lassiter.
“Just seeing all of the kids succeed is rewarding when you play in a tough region like we do with Walton and Etowah and Woodstock,” Burden said. “I’m glad we’re having this success. I’m glad the boys were able to improve after going eighth at the state last year, and now fourth this year. Hopefully, we can go a step further next year. We talk about playing well week to week, but we didn’t play great all year long. It was a lot like last year, where it all came together in the end.”