For the Pope program, however, this is all new. For the first time in their decades old history, the Greyhounds and Lady Greyhounds advanced to the state finals and will play for a state title.
“This is very exciting for our golf teams and for our school,” Pope boys’ coach Jason Dasinger said. “Pope’s done well this season in all of its sports, and it’s exciting to join and contribute to that. The school is supporting us and everything’s great.”
Other girls teams from the county include region champions Harrison and Walton in Class AAAAAA and Whitefield Academy in the Class A private school tournament.
Boys teams include region champions Harrison and Walton in Class AAAAAA, Walker in the Class A private school meet and sectional advancers Kell in Class AAAAA.
Individually, Region 4AAAAAA champion Jonathan Keppler of Kennesaw Mountain and Campbell’s Vitthal Parker will also complete. Mack Alford of Mount Paran Christian moved on to the Class A tournament after posting a sectional qualifying score and Whitefield’s Alex Forsbrand was the low scorer at the Region 4A meet to earn a state bid.
Whitefield’s girls’ team is back in the state tournament for the first time since 2009. The boys’ teams at Kell and Walker have a history of postseason success, and the boys and girls squads from Harrison and Walton have a strong history of competing at the state meet.
Changes in personnel, as well as to the GHSA rules, have given Pope the opportunity to participate in the state tournament.
“We have a lot of underclassmen who have been playing golf a little more,” Pope girls’ coach Matthew Fox said. “They’re good golfers and girls that love the game. I think the competition is up and these two new freshmen, Lizzie Reedy and Alexis Brinley, have pulled everybody else’s game up.
“Our one senior, Parker Esoda, and our junior, Jessica Sanders, have really elevated their game too and have that competition where they don’t want to get beat by a freshman. It’s given them a little extra drive to do better. Our sophomore, Allison West, has also performed well.”
Improvement in the team’s depth has been a catalyst for the Pope boys’ team, which includes freshmen Alex Reedy and Michael Sculley, sophomores Allen Guzman and Daniel Edmondson and juniors Brady Kupersmith and Steven Acheson.
“We have six, maybe seven, solid guys where in the past we’d have two,” Dasinger said. “It’s a well-rounded and young team that can all shoot scores in the upper 70s to low 80s.”
The GHSA’s decision to include a sectional round has also been a benefit. Previously, the top two teams from each region qualified for state. The addition of a sectional round that permitted the top four region teams that post a qualifying sectional round score to move on in tournament has given more schools postseason opportunities.
“In our region, we had four make the qualifying score for sectionals,” Fox said. “The new format brings more competition, but it allows teams like us, who have struggled in the past, to get in and not just the top two. It gives teams like us who are growing or trying to build a program, an opportunity to at least make that step towards state by adding sectionals. It also gets the best schools playing for a state championship.”
Esoda, who is in her fourth varsity season, has been waiting to play at the state meet.
“It’s incredible,” she said. “I didn’t realize how bad I wanted it until we actually started playing (at sectionals). With every hole I wanted it more and more. It’s just incredible that we’re actually going to the state finals and we’ve never made it this far. It’s awesome. It’s indescribable.
“It’s great sharing this with (the boys’ team) too. It’s a cool experience to have the entire golf team going to state.”
Kupersmith shares Esoda’s feelings.
“It’s great,” he said. “Just to come out here and lead this team to a state championship tournament is great. It’s something the school has never seen before and I’m glad to be a part of it.”