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Smith leads Eastside boys golf to finals
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Eastside High Taylor Smith shot a 3-under 69 to win the medalist honor and help the Eagles to a runnerup finish during the Region 8-AAAA tournament Monday at Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club in Helen.

"We didn't play very well, except for Taylor," said Eastside boys coach Jay Cawthon, "but it was a very, very tough golf course."

Difficult indeed as the next lowest score next to Smith's was 80. Nevertheless, with the second-place finish Eastside advances to the Class AAAA state tournament on May 5 at Bartram Trail Golf Club in Augusta.

"There are 16 teams in the field, and I would love to finish in the top eight," Cawthon said. "I think we do have a great chance, especially if our young guys play like they're capable of playing."

The Eagles finished the regular season 17-2 overall, completing one of their best years in recent history. After compiling a long string of victories, they lost their last regular season match by two strokes - perhaps a good thing, humbling them at such a critical point of the year.

During the Region 8-AAAA tournament, the Eagles fell by just one stroke to Habersham Central.

"Well, (Smith) made the turn at 3-under while everybody else struggled in the front nine," Cawthon recalled, "and he said 'don't worry,' so we all had a good feeling then. He was in the last group and we needed him to play well."

Other tops scorers for Eastside were J.T. Blaker (86), Tate Miller (87) and Taylor Lazenby (92).

Smith, a senior who is signing with Georgia College on Monday, has been the catalyst of the team during all four years of his tenure at Eastside.

But it will be the play of the rest of the Eagles - three freshmen and two sophomores - that will determine the outcome.

"Personally, I think he's got a pretty good chance of being pretty good at the state competition," Cawthon said. "He's got a great chance to place very high because he's that good of a player."

According to Cawthon, it's Smith's leadership that has been most impressive.

"Our young guys really look up to him," Cawthon said. "He takes great pride in winning every match that he participates in.

"As far as the young guys go, we've really wanted to get back to state for Taylor because he has not been back since his freshman year," he added, "and it's just real exciting for all the young kids."