COVINGTON, Ga. — The Eastside Eagles girls’ golf team holds a “small” 12-stroke lead after the first nine holes of the Newton cup. They can attribute this lead in large part to the play of sophomore Caroline Culbertson, who shot a career-low 40 in the first round of the tournament.
Stepping up as a sophomore is impressive enough, but the fact that Culbertson only picked up golf in the past year and a half makes her most recent feat even more spectacular.
Culbertson’s father who frequently golfed in the past never pushed the sport on her, but was excited when she came home one day wanting to try out for Eastside’s golf team.
After hearing the announcements for golf tryouts over a year ago, Culbertson dove right in and has been hard at work ever since picking up her first club. It’s this hard work and polishing of her craft that makes her love the sport so much.
“I love it because it’s so hard and it changes everyday,” said Culbertson. “It’s competitive and very challenging and it’s just so addictive that it makes you want to get back out there and do better and better and better.”
The amount of effort and time that Culbertson puts into her game is what stands out to Lady Eagles head coach Dennis Jones, and it has led to her soaring to the top of Eastside’s — and the county’s — golf ranks.
“We’re not surprised because she works so hard,” Jones said. “She got a lot of instruction from course professionals, and she played in other junior tournaments, so when tryouts started a month or so back, we were not surprised at all by the way she was hitting the ball,” said Jones. “She went from being my number four player last year to our number one player this year.”
Culbertson spends a lot of time at the Ashton Hills Golf Club and said that even when high school golf season is out, she tries to work on her game at the course at least four to five days out of the week.
Ashton Hills golf pro Bryan Raines has also noticed the amount of work that Culberston has put in in a short amount of time and believes, for that reason, that the sky is the limit for her.
“She works really hard and she’s a really determined girl. She’s definitely as hard of a worker as I’ve ever seen in the last five or six years of all the kids I’ve taught,” said Raines. “She has the ability and the drive to (play at the collegiate level) but she has to continue practicing, continuing playing and continue working to get better and better. I do see it as a real possibility for her future.”
College golf is, indeed, a goal of Culbertson’s. And although she knows the challenge she has before her is a steep one, she has her eyes set on a big in-state school to extend her golf career.
“I really want to play in college. Last year, it was my first time playing and I was not sure if I could do it or not, but since I practice so much and I’ve come so far from last year, I’m determined to do that,” she said. “I would love to go to UGA because I mean, it’s UGA. Go Dawgs. It’s also a really good school, so it’s pretty high on my list.”
Culbertson knows that she still has to work harder on improving her game if she hopes to achieve a lofty goal like that. Therefore, she believes the one area she needs to most improve is her driving. She has plans to put in that extra work this summer which is when she is looking to play on the junior tour.
Her love of the game even extends off the course as well, as she mentioned that she is very excited for the Masters this week. She has some love for last year’s winner Patrick Reed, but is rooting for two left-handed golfers, including one former Georgia Bulldog, to take home the green jacket.
“I want Bubba (Watson) to win it or Phil (Mickelson). He’s probably second for me,” said Culbertson.
This coming Sunday one golfer will put on the green jacket at Augusta National and Culbertson is ready to see how it all plays out. However the very next day, she will be looking to lock down a trophy for her own team as she tries to match her first round 40 and help bring home the Newton cup.
Both Eastside teams victorious over Heritage
Eastside's golf squads got solid Newton Cup tune-up wins Thursday while hosting Heritage at Ashton Hills.
Culbertson shot a 47 to push the Lady Eagles to a team score of 152. Meanwhile, the boys dealt with Heritage rather convincingly, defeating the Patriots 164-217. The boys benefited from solid performances from Griffin Autry and Will Harwell who fired a 37 and 38 respectively. Nick Mitchell also helped out by shooting a 44 and Riley McSwain chipped in by shooting a 45.
Both teams will be back in action Monday for round two of the Newton Cup. Eastside will take a commanding lead into Monday afternoon's action at The Oaks.