Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Greater Atlanta Christian's up coming sophomore Bailey Tardy has been selected as the Gwinnett Daily Post's girls golf athlete of the year. Tardy lead GAC school to the girls Class AA golf state title as well as placing first individually in the state.
NORCROSS -- Junior high golf at Greater Atlanta Christian is just nominally a golf team.
They get together. They practice. They play golf. Against each other. There are not matches, no interaction with the varsity team. Just some young girls playing golf for a few weeks.
But as the Spartan girls finished runner-up as a team last year and senior Emee Herbert took the school's second straight individual state title, that middle school team prepared another champion.
Bailey Tardy, in her second year at GAC, followed in the path of Herbert and Lindsay Adams before her by claiming the Class AA individual state title with a 73, edging Vidalia's Katie Dalton by two strokes. The 73 also propelled the Spartans to their second state championship in three seasons in Class AA.
"I didn't really have any expectations or what to shoot. I just went in there and tried to play my best," Tardy said. "I was nervous on the first tee box, but that was it."
Tardy played her state-winning round in front of family and a pair of GAC teammates, enjoying the gallery and, eventually, her playing partners, which included Dalton.
"The first hole we didn't really talk, but after the front nine we all loosened up and realized we needed to be out there for fun," Tardy said. "I knew I was playing well. I knew I needed to stay focused."
She certainly did that, leaving Dalton, a sophomore, as runner-up to a Spartan for the second straight year.
The team and individual championships capped a freshman year where Tardy learned how to play team golf and then won every major event, including a sweep of low-medalist and team titles in the Region 6-AA tournament.
"I didn't really know what it was going to be like," Tardy said. "I was excited to see what golf matches were like. You can't really have a match and compete, I didn't think."
She learned quickly to rely on her teammates, and for an individual athlete at heart, enjoyed the team atmosphere.
"It kind of takes the pressure off of you knowing that there are three other girls that have your back and if you play bad then they are always going to be there to back your score up," she said. "I think it took pressure off of everyone. I had faith in them. I knew that they had practiced and they were going out there and playing their hearts off."
Tardy turned to golf at age 11 after her soccer team broke up. When the club's players went their separate ways, she spent a year wandering through her own sports desert, looking for something to fill soccer's void.
"There was like a year of all different sports, but what I liked best was golf and I picked that one," Tardy said. "My dad has been pushing me through it from there."
Tardy needs help remembering all the sports she tried in that year, that included lacrosse, soccer, tennis, swimming, basketball and volleyball.
"You name a sport, I did it," Tardy said.
She still plays volleyball. But she plays more golf.
By 12, Tardy began playing in tournaments. She takes lessons and plays with other juniors at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Long off the tee, Tardy admits she needs to improve her short game and her season in high school helped.
With short courses, a long tee shot meant plenty of wedges into greens. Her long irons stayed clean much of the spring.
"You have to be exact on your wedge shots," Tardy said. "My putting is my other weakness. It's not the best. It could be better."
As a freshman, she has a few years to improve. But with a state title her first year, she can only equal her results.
"I guess it could add a little pressure," said Tardy, who enjoys the challenge. "I think it's fun playing like that with close competition instead of playing with girls who shoot in the 100s."