Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Peachtree Ridge's Charles Huntzinger gets his ball out from a sand bunker at hole 1 during Region 7-AAAAAA boys golf tournament at TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth Wednesday.
DULUTH -- Survive and advance is an expression not usually associated with golf.
But on a day in which rapidly changing weather conditions combined with an already tough course at TPC Sugarloaf, that was exactly the mantra teams in the Region 7-AAAAAA were clinging to Wednesday.
In the end, only Peachtree Ridge and Norcross were able to, with the Lions placing all four of their scorers in the top 10, led by Zach Pritchard's round of 6-over 78, to post a score of 319 to take home their first team championship in four years and earn an automatic berth in the Class AAAAAA state tournament May 20 in Tifton.
"It's our goal every year," said Peachtree Ridge coach Bert Green, whose Lions had won the region title four straight seasons from 2006-09. "Because we'd won it four years in a row, we set the standards for ourselves. We have high standards. It's our goal every year, and for the last three years, we hadn't done it."
The Lions got it done thanks to a steady day of scores that included Pritchard's 78, a 79 by Charles Huntzinger, an 80 by Michael Chong and an 82 by Kevin Kim.
But it was Pritchard's round that proved to be the difference as the senior rebounded from a disastrous front nine to shoot 4-under 32 on the back to card his team's best round.
"We're going to the state tournament because of what he did," Green said of Pritchard. "He could've just tanked it and given up, but because of what he did, we're going to the state tournament."
Even with new rules in place with the addition of a state sectional tournament in advance of the state championships, only Norcross managed to join Peachtree Ridge in advancing past Wednesday.
The Blue Devils, led by the day's low round of 2-over 74 from Zach Healy, plus an 81 from Patrick Haas, finished just five shots back of Peachtree Ridge at 324.
"That's all you can ask for is an opportunity to go to sectionals," Norcross coach Chris Hall said. "There was definitely some number-crunching going on at the back nine. We didn't get off to a good start, (but) from then on, Patrick Haas stepped up with an 81. That was huge. And then Zach coming in at 74, that's unbelievable."
While third- and fourth-place teams -- Mill Creek (336) and North Gwinnett (343) -- are eligible to play at the state sectional tournament May 6 at Brookfield Country Club in Roswell, neither met the score of 330 required to qualify.
The Bulldogs' Bailey Ulp will play in the sectionals thanks to his round of 78, which made him the only individual beside Healy, Pritchard and Huntzinger to break 80 on the day.
But individually, the day belonged to Healy, who managed to keep his composure after a triple bogey on his 10th hole.
And despite a steady rain that fell throughout most of his back nine, the Georgia-committed junior rebounded to finish at just 2-over.
"It definitely progressed to get a lot tougher," Healy said. "There were about three or four holes where, it wasn't pouring, but it was a constant rain. It was a struggle.
"I had one bad hole. I hit it out of bounds there. Take that away, and I shoot 1-under. I didn't get off the tee box real well (Wednesday), but I putted all right. My irons were pretty good. Everything was pretty solid except for getting off the tee box. But overall, I guess it was all right. We came out on top, so that's all you can ask for."