Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Shiloh High School senior Cierra Hoyle poses for a portrait at the County Club of Gwinnett Golf Course in Snellville on Friday. Hoyle will be competing in the GHSA Golf State Championships on May 7, in Augusta. This fall Hoyle plans to attend and play golf for Brewton-Parker College.
An hour before practice is scheduled to start, Cierra Hoyle is on the driving range warming up.
The Shiloh golfer hits some shots with her low irons and works her way up to her driver. She then goes to the putting range and is ready to play by the time her teammates show up.
"The No. 1 thing I think that makes her good is just the passion for the sport," Shiloh coach Demetris Cook said. "She absolutely loves the game."
Hoyle is typically the first golfer on the course and the last one off. The extra practice time and hard work has paid off for the senior. Hoyle qualified as an individual for the Class AAAAA state tournament on May 7 at Westlake Country Club in Augusta.
Hoyle's qualification for the state tournament is a rarity for Shiloh golfers, especially girls. For most of the last decade, Shiloh has not been very competitive in golf.
"It's never happened before," Cook said. "The people I've talked to that have been here for 20 years, say it's never happened."
It's been nearly 20 years since Shiloh's Kathi Eutzler won the state championship in 1995, but Cook thinks Hoyle can do the same.
"I think she's going to win it, without a doubt. She's definitely the best golfer in Gwinnett County," Cook said. "She didn't win region, but she was just one shot off from winning the thing. I really do think she's going to win this thing."
Hoyle shot an 86 at the Region 8-AAAAA championship to be the low medalist from a non-qualifying team. Brookwood's Taylor Allen, who Hoyle plays with in Atlanta Junior Golf, won the region title with an 85.
"She's the first one there and the last one leaving, so I'm not surprised at all with her success," Cook said.
Hoyle moved from Columbia, S.C., with her family two years ago. When she got to Shiloh she inquired about the golf team and was surprised by what she learned.
"I found out it wasn't really a golf school and that not many girls played," Hoyle said.
Then she meet Cook, who was not the coach of the team at the time, but had a passion for golf.
"The first time the two of us went out and played, neither one of us played particularly well," Cook said. "Since then it's been night and day. I probably haven't seen her hit a bad shot in the year I've been coach. She may miss a green here or there, but it's still a nice crisp shot."
Cook followed Hoyle's progress as a junior and he became head coach this season. With his tutelage, Hoyle has flourished.
"I respect her game, she respects me as a coach," Cook said. "I know when she's going through something on the course."
Hoyle first picked up a set of golf clubs when she was 4. The family story goes the first time she stepped on a course, one of her shots sailed over a lake. She tried basketball and track growing up, but always had that passion for golf.
"Golf was it for me," Hoyle said. "I loved the game so much, so I kept playing and playing."
Hoyle qualified for the Atlanta/Kaua'i Challenge in Hawaii last summer and was able to play against some of Hawaii's top junior golfers.
"Oh, that was nice," she said.
The experience propelled Hoyle to this season. She signed a college scholarship with Brewton-Parker and her nine-hole average is typically in the 39-40 range. Hoyle would like to become a professional golfer one day, but she first wants to do something special at Shiloh.
"I'm really excited to go to state and take Shiloh there," Hoyle said. "I hope I'm able to place and maybe win the thing."