SUWANEE -- When Bailey Ulp putted out for a 76 during last year's Region 7-AAAAA tournament, he didn't have a good feeling.
A freshman at the time, the North Gwinnett golfer wasn't happy with his round's results, but pleased with his effort.
"I kept my composure through it," Ulp said.
When he arrived with his card at the clubhouse, he learned that 76 was good enough. At least for a tie.
But no fairy tale began. On the first playoff hole, Ulp turned in a snowman. Eight. Way over par, no matter the hole. But his opponent outdid him with a nine.
"I got to go (to state)," the now-sophomore said. "Everybody was saying, 'Eight to state.'"
But it's the "state" that counts, especially for a golfer in his first year of high school. Ulp earned his trip with that 76 and the eight.
He carded a 73 at the state tournament, five off the championship mark of 68 set by Lowdnes' Joseph "Sepp" Straka, but it tied a county low with Norcross' Jason Mendel (also a member of this year's Daily Post Super Six) and last year's boys golfer of the year Ted Moon from Parkview.
The difference for Ulp came with the stakes, the attention, the gallery.
"I got up to the first tee and there were a ton of people watching. I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I don't know what's going to happen,'" Ulp said. "First tee, I hit my drive and I left it out to the right a little bit and I thought, 'I don't know what to do,' and I was real shaky. I got over the shot. I put it up on the middle of the green and two-putted for par. That got my nerves down and from there I was just kept going. I played pretty decent."
Ulp increased his off-season tournament schedule this past summer and plans to enter bigger events this summer, but still calls the state tournament his biggest test. A test he wants to take again.
"It was fun. It was a really cool experience," Ulp said. "I have played in tournaments before, but I felt like state was like bigger. I have played in regional tournaments that have Tennessee, South Carolina (gofers) in it, but I felt like it was more ... I don't know how to say it ... it is like it's your state and you are trying to win your own state and I thought that was pretty cool."
Ulp started playing golf at 4 years old and started U.S. Kids tournaments a year later. Reared in Suwanee, Ulp tried football, and for almost seven years played baseball, but by the end of sixth grade, he just played golf. It doesn't matter the temperature, the wind or rain, if the course is open, Ulp will play.
"Golf always hit me harder than those sports and I felt like I hard a more get-it attitude toward it as opposed to baseball," Ulp said. "I like the sportsmanship. Since it's like your own person, unless you are on the high school team, but in other tournaments it is like your own person and you compete with yourself and I like that."
But he's learned to enjoy playing with a team, even in the fiercely individual sport. Practices bring better results with the instant feedback of her peers. Teammates sap the loneliness out of the solitary game.
"I feel like they help encourage you a lot more," Ulp said. "If you are by yourself and you get mad, but if you are out playing with your buddies, practicing, they can help with, 'Calm down, dude, you'll be all right.' I like it. If you mess up, you can have that guy back you up if you need it."
Not that Ulp needed it, even with an eight in a playoff.