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Piedmont Academy golf earns state title
PA Golf
Piedmont Academy’s state championship golf team includes, from left, coach Ron Holder, Sawyer Freeman, Ridge Stroud, Marissa Holder, Barrett Downing, Avery McWhorter, Kolby Pounds and coach Michael Wilson. - photo by Special Photo

MONTICELLO, Ga. — A close call last spring helped provide the necessary motivation for the Piedmont Academy golf team to win it all in 2023.

The Cougars were third at state a year ago on the links but that finish helped give the Piedmont Academy a purpose for 2023.

The Cougar golfers accomplished that goal on Monday winning the GIAA Class AA state title at Harbor Club on Lake Oconee in Greensboro. Piedmont had the low overall team round of 362 to hold off second place Thomas Jefferson Academy (367).

“I am really happy for the kids,” coach Michael Wilson said. “Last year we finished third only two shots behind Thomas Jefferson and came back this year and played with a purpose. They did a great job of managing their games and for the most part limiting big numbers.”

The championship by Piedmont ended a three-year run by Rivers Academy.

Junior Ridge Stroud was named to the All State team for 2023. Stroud was sixth overall individually on Monday.

“Winning the golf state championship is the greatest honor of my athletic career,” Stroud said. “After having lost state championships in other sports, winning the golf title has been the culmination of much hard work and determination. While it was a great team accomplishment, I was very honored to be named an All-State golfer. This championship has taught me that anyone can accomplish his goals through preservation and faith in God.”

Wilson had great praise for Stroud’s leadership this season.

“Ridge always does a great job of playing smart in big tournaments,” Wilson said. “He didn’t shoot what he was capable of but given the weather and the magnitude of a state championship, I think he did great. He had the sixth lowest score and played the last four or five holes one under and that’s what wins these tournaments for teams, individuals keeping their round salvageable.”

Freshman golfer Kolby Pounds was low medalist for Piedmont with a round of 82.

“The key in team golf is to just play the course and not do any play the course and not do anything on one hole that inflates your score,” Wilson said. “Kolby played really well after the first four holes. He got off to a slow start. He’s just a freshman and an excellent golfer. Sometimes he gets ahead of himself wanting to shoot a low score and he will struggle early but he’s definitely improved on that this year and moving forward he’s going to win a lot of tournaments outside of school and with Piedmont.”

Helping contribute to the overall team win was Sawyer Freeman.

“This was his first state tournament and he dealt with some struggles but was able to turn in a score that helped us win,” Wilson said. “He’s just learning the game and I think by this time next year will have a chance at All-State.”

Barrett Downing and Avery McWhorter both worked all season and helped the Cougar golfers in matches throughout the season. Downing was able to play at state while McWhorter was an alternate. Wilson said both are freshmen and getting better. 

Sophomore Marissa Holder seems to shine in whichever sports she competes in from basketball to softball to track to flag football. Since Piedmont did not have a girls golf team this spring, Holder competed with the boys. Wilson, who also coaches her in other sports, said she is simply a “winner.”

“Marissa is another one who is just learning the game of golf,” Wilson said. “She is so unbelievably talented in everything she does. She’s got a chance to be the most successful female athlete ever in the GIAA and watching her succeed is a lot of fun. She’s a winner. She’s won five state championships already and that kind of expectation she brings to the table gives everyone confidence.”

Piedmont’s golfers had their ultimate goal mapped out from the start of the season and have now reached the top of that mountain.

It’s never easy winning it all, regardless of sport, so Wilson said it was great seeing the student-athletes do so well.

“Winning a championship is not easy, no matter what level you are competing,” Wilson said. “Being the best takes a lot of work and a little bit of luck and it’s an accomplishment we all will remember for a long time. It’s been a great year here with teams and their success. Hopefully baseball will provide a cherry on the top and give us momentum heading into next year.”