After failing to win the Larry Gaither Hardaway Invitational golf tournament in its first 37 years of existence, the Columbus High golf team has finally found its footing.
It won the 2013 tournament by 12 strokes and followed that up in 2014 with a 10-stroke victory over second-place Brookstone. Now, the Blue Devils, who returned the bulk of the group that had such success a season ago, are aiming for their third straight title at the 40th annual tournament, which will be played over two days (Friday and Saturday) at Bull Creek golf course.
“We’re treating it like any other tournament,” Columbus coach Chris Parker said this week. “We look forward to the two-day tournaments a little more than the one-days. This is only our second two-day tournament this year.”
The other was the Joe King Memorial tournament in Auburn, Ala., which Columbus won easily. Outside of that, though, Parker said the team’s play has been moderately inconsistent throughout the course of the season.
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While it played well at the Joe King, which Parker likened to the Hardaway Invitational — a tournament that featured some of the best teams the state had to offer — Columbus struggled to fifth or sixth place in a couple others, shooting scores that Parker normally wouldn’t have been expected.
This weekend, his hope is that the team cleans things up as it nears the end of the season.
“I wish I knew the answer to do something about it,” he said. “We’ve just been a little inconsistent. Some days, we’re really strong. Other days, not so much. Hopefully, we’ll be stronger this weekend.”
It will play in the afternoon session on Friday, along with other local teams like Brookstone and Northside, and another top contender in North Oconee. Columbus will be led by a freshman, Ben Carr, who has the team’s top scoring average for the year at 73.
This year, five individuals will compete with the top four scores counted toward the competition. The other four golfers for the Blue Devils are Nolan Miller, Stanton Schorr, Ben Womack and Daniel Davis.
The Blue Devils have won two tournaments overall this season.
Brookstone, which finished second last year, has won one tournament this year, a six-team event at the Granger Invitational. It also finished third at the Muscogee County Invitational and second at the Blue Devil Invitational.
It is the second straight year the tournament will be played on the East course at Bull Creek. The first groups of the day will have a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The afternoon groups will begin at 2:45 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Larry Gaither tournament is the longest-running tournament in the state of Georgia.