Staff Illustration: Jonathan Phillips
Last year's Class AAAAA state golf champion Lauren Court returns to the Eagles for her senior season.
Like most golf stories, this one began years ago with a brightly colored plastic club and equally eye-catching fake golf ball.
Toys of choice for the golf-loving parents.
But from there, Lauren Court took a near decade-long detour. While still a small child in Maryland, the Collins Hill senior played “imaginary golf” at night on the course that enhanced her backyard. But then, golf ended.
This is not a story of a pre-teen wasting hours on a driving range or a middle school student spending weekends and summers in tucked-away golf communities across the region playing tournament after tournament.
No, Court chose golf with equal parts pragmatism and passion. She turned her dad from a “bucket butt” to a playing partner, reluctantly spurning softball pitching for a pitching wedge. The choice didn’t come easily for Court, but golf did.
Even during the summer nights of “imaginary golf” in Maryland, where Court would pretend to play a few holes, the clubs and balls made only of high-quality creativity, her days were spent throwing balls.
“I had originally been a softball player since I was 5, that was all I did with my dad,” Court said. “I used to call him ‘bucket butt’ because that is all he did was sit on that bucket and let me pitch to him. I wasn’t really a runner, I wasn’t really a hitter, that’s what I did, I pitched.”
When her family moved from Maryland to Suwanee, she kept pitching. Not until the end of her junior high years did Court return to golf. Her father, Doug, kept his clubs in the family’s garage and Court took an interest in them. Her dad took her out on the course and so began a fissure between sports.
Court played both for a few years. She pitched for the Eagles’ JV team as a freshman in the fall. She won Collins Hill’s Eagle award for the top female golfer in the spring. Over the summer, she worked out at Hamilton Mill’s golf course with instructor Chuck Scroggins and played on the Georgia Junior PGA Tour, finishing second in three separate tournaments.
“After my freshman year on the softball team and the golf team they started clashing,” Court said. “I couldn’t do both and focus on school and keep up with the softball girls and the golf team. At some point people are going to catch you if you don’t focus on one thing. You can be good at two things, but you can’t be excellent at something.”
It took a sit-down family meeting with her parents, but Court decided to pursue golf. The individualism of the sport captured her emotions and the greater possibility of an athletic future tugged at her realism.
“I was ripped apart when I gave up softball,” Court said. “I had to sit down and weigh the pros and cons. There is just a brighter future in golf.”
Two and a half years later, Court’s results speak for themselves. The Georgia State signee holds the nine- and 18-hole Collins Hill scoring records, she won the Gwinnett Open as a junior and she capped her penultimate season by leading Collins Hill to the school’s first girls Class AAAAA golf state championship by winning the individual title with a 73. The 73 — shot in a rainstorm that would send even the most passionate weekend golfer to the nearest theater — is the aforementioned 18-hole Collins Hill record.
Court still remembers her first high school tournament. A freshman at Collins Hill, she was already the team’s No. 1 golfer and the team faced Mill Creek, when the Hawks were at their golfing peak. Her playing partner? Emilie Burger, now a standout golfer at Georgia.
“I just stood there frozen on the first tee box thinking, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’” Court said.
Now she knows.