North girls golf hope to get over hump at region tourney

For much of the season, North Gwinnett's girls golf team has been in the middle of the pack in tournaments.

Head coach John Payne hopes that will change at this week's Region 7-AAAAA tournament at Heritage Club. An average showing won't qualify the Bulldogs for the state tournament, which sends the top two teams from each region.

"We have been right in the middle of the pack," Payne said. "When we play well, we can play with the better teams. We've had moments where we can compete most anybody."

Mill Creek and Duluth are the favorites going into the tournament, while Peachtree Ridge, North and Meadowcreek are fighting to pull an upset. In his 12 years as North's girls golf coach, Payne has never had a team finish out of the top four.

"I'm hoping we can play well," Payne said. "What's so unusual about golf is it doesn't matter how well you do in the regular season. I hope we can be in the top half."

The last time North made the playoffs was 2008 when it had state champion Louisa Yang and standout Alicia Poole.

The Bulldogs feature a young lineup this season with no seniors on the team.

Alex Hudson, a junior, and Jessica Choi, a sophomore, have been North's top golfers this season. The duo usually shoot in the 45-46 range and are a stroke away from each other.

Juniors Rachel Gill and Callie Cronin have also played strong this season.

"We have girls that really do want to play well," Payne said. "Some don't have a lot of experience, but they don't want to quit."

If North can't qualify for the state tournament as a team, the Bulldogs still have hopes of sending an individual. The top low-medalist not on a state qualifying team will reach the state tournament. Last year Hudson was two strokes away from tying for the qualifying position.

"She's usually competing for that spot," Payne said.