Drew Oldham will never forget that round at Chestatee.
It’s a round right out of the storybooks – a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, followed by a 25-foot downhill putt on 18 to finish 7-under. The course was largely dark by then, with the only light emanating from a few cell phones some of the golfers held in their hands.
The thing is, it wasn’t Oldham’s round.
Instead, it was Forsyth Central sophomore Jack Darke who carded the 64; Oldham was one of the players trying to brighten up the course with his phone.
Oldham and the other members of Forsyth Central’s boys golf team were just as ecstatic for Darke as they would have been if they had sunk the putt.
“They were like, ‘Coach, he was playing so well we had to finish in the dark,’” Forsyth Central coach William Hobbs recalled. “They were taking their phones and using their phone lights to show him the path. That’s how much they love it. They love playing together and love being around each other.”
The Bulldogs may have only seven golfers – Gabe Allen, Carter Brown, Jack Darke, Drew Oldham, Ty Schmidt, Trey Schmidt, Walker Springsteen – but the bond they share is one of the reasons Central has high hopes this season.
“It’s just different. It feels like we can actually do something this year,” Oldham said. “The scores we would have been excited about in my first year, it’s not even comparable. We just have such bigger expectations and just a better team, more cohesive top to bottom. Everybody talks to each other and everybody is hanging out. It’s just a lot better atmosphere than my freshman year.”
Another reason is the talent.
Trey Schmidt is already averaging scores in the 70s and led Central earlier this month with a 1-over 73 at Apple Mountain Golf Club.
“His game off the tee is unbelievable,” Hobbs said. “He hits the ball a mile off the tee. It is incredible. We’re at practice sometimes and the kids are like, ‘Coach, that’s ridiculous.’ This freshman just crushes the ball off the tee. When you watch him swing, he gets every ounce in him behind it.”
Older brother Ty Schmidt enjoyed plenty of success on the Georgia State Golf Association Junior Tour this past summer, as did Darke, who captured the tour championship in July with a 1-under 215.
Both Darke and Ty Schmidt are sophomores.
“They’re shooting scores that you would see maybe a lot of seniors shoot already as sophomores and freshmen, which is very promising,” Hobbs said.
Central has only two seniors this season – Oldham and Springsteen – two friends for the majority of their lives, says Oldham.
The pair brings a sense of leadership to a Central team that is comprised of mostly underclassmen.
That leadership shows up in other places than the scorecard, too.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead of us. We’re probably in one of the best regions in the state. We definitely have a long road ahead of us, but I think we can do it if we have a good day and everything falls into place.”Forsyth Central senior Drew Oldham
Hobbs said people love being paired with Springsteen because of his sense of humor and how personable he is.
“They’re two great young men,” Hobbs said. “Drew Oldham, I would say, is like the glue for our team. He’s been in the program since his freshman year. He’s a really good golfer and shoots some really good scores for us. I would say he’s kind of like our leader.”
Oldham shaved about 20 strokes off his score throughout the course of his high school career.
Much of that growth, Oldham said, can be attributed to improving his mental acumen and his ability to play under pressure.
Oldham began playing golf at 5 years old when his dad would take him to Country Land Golf Course, the same course where Central’s team practices.
“It’s mainly just building a relationship with my dad, which is the reason I got into it, then I just kind of fell in love with it after that,” he said.
It’s been years since Central reached the state tournament in boys golf– Oldham estimates it hasn’t happened this century.
Still, that’s the goal for this year’s Central team.
“Their goal is to go to state. I’m just flat-out honest about that,” Hobbs said. “When we looked at ourselves coming into the season – we got cut off last year – and we looked at what was coming in with Trey and the ability for some of our other kids to get better over the year, Drew Oldham and I talk a lot, and he said, ‘Coach, this is an opportunity for us to go to state.’”
To do so would require Central to emerge from arguably the most challenging area assignment in the state.
West Forsyth [2019 state champion] and Lambert [2015 state champion] reside in Central’s backyard, as does established power South Forsyth, as well as Denmark, a quickly emerging program.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead of us. We’re probably in one of the best regions in the state,” Oldham said. “We definitely have a long road ahead of us, but I think we can do it if we have a good day and everything falls into place.”