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Martin's 71 helps Mill Creek to first Region 7-AAAAA boys title

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mill Creek's Taylor Martin putts on the 9th green during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships are held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee. Martin shot a 71, two strokes off the course record, to finish in first place individually. Mill Creek finished first as a team.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mill Creek's Taylor Martin putts on the 9th green during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships are held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee. Martin shot a 71, two strokes off the course record, to finish in first place individually. Mill Creek finished first as a team.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mountain View's Cole Parks hits from the rough on the 16th fairway during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross golfer Jason Mendel takes a moment to focus while waiting to putt on the ninth green during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee. Mendel finished in second place individually while Norcross finished in second place as a team.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Mill Creek's Emerson Newsome lines up a putt on the 11th green during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Bailey Ulp of North Gwinnett, tees off on the 16th hole during the Region 7-AAAAA Boys Golf Championships held Thursday at The River Club in Suwanee.

SUWANEE -- One couldn't blame Taylor Martin for feeling a little confident as he teed off for the Region 7-AAAAA boys golf tournament.

On the other hand, after posting birdies on seven straight holes during a practice round with members at The River Club the previous day, he probably wished he could've saved a few for the main event.

But the Mill Creek senior saved enough for Thursday's tournament to fire a 1-under par 71, good enough to hold off Norcross' Jason Mendel by two strokes for the individual region championship and help the Hawks end the Blue Devils' two-year reign as team champions.

Martin's round was just two shots off the club record held by current PGA Tour member Matt Kuchar.

"I was just hitting it good," Martin said. "I came in and was hoping to be able to put up a number."

Martin put up a very impressive number that helped propel Mill Creek, along with a round of 81 from Emerson Newsome and matching rounds of 84 from Dylan Pence and Brian Kim, to its first region title with a score of 320 after finishing as runner-up to Norcross a year ago.

"We've been second before, but this is our first region championship," Hawks coach Robert Nelson said. "What was real enjoyable was being out there knowing that we had to be on our game, and they went out and did that.

"I was hoping to average 78, but then (Martin) comes in at 71, which was amazing."

Actually, Martin's round Thursday may not have even been quite as amazing as his practice round the day before, during which he birdied seven straight holes.

And it took him a while to start getting the same confident feeling he got the day before.

"It was probably around the third hole," Martin said when asked when he began to feel like Thursday would be his day. "(The previous day's practice round) was just a confidence boost, (but) I bogeyed the first hole. But after that, I started feeling better about my swing and began to putt better.

Martin needed to have his game together with Norcross' Mendel and Zach Healey (3-over 75) each joining Martin and Peachtree Ridge's Zach Pritchard as the only four individuals to break 80 on the day.

Despite the two strong rounds by their No. 1 and 2 players, the Blue Devils weren't able to hold off the Hawks this time.

However, their team score of 323 was good enough to earn them region runner-up status, plus a berth alongside Mill Creek in the Class AAAAA state tournament May 7 at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta.

"We knew we weren't a very deep team this year," Norcross boys coach Steve Sims said. "We're as excited about finishing second this year as we were winning the past two years. The last couple of years we knew we had a shot at winning coming in, but this year, we just really didn't know how it was going to go."

With the top three scorers coming from the region's top two teams, Pritchard's round of 78 also earned him a spot in the state tournament as the low medalist from outside the two team qualifiers.-- Sports Editor Will Hammock contributed to this report