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CHAMPS! Lambert girls golf wins 8th state title in 9 seasons
Lambert's girls golf team captured the Class 7A state championship Tuesday at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer. - photo by David Roberts

HOMER — Sara Im entered this week's Class 7A girls golf state championship on a roll.

She exited it as the tournament's low medalist after firing a 6-under 138 through 36 holes to help Lambert win the state title by 29 strokes over second-place Walton.

"She's got like 12 rounds under par right now between 4-ball, the qualifier for the U.S. Open, the tournament she played for us," Lambert coach Shane Fortenberry said. "Then she comes out here and she does two more rounds. She's just playing unbelievable golf right now. She's on a streak and everything is good. It's fun to watch."

Lambert is on a streak, too. The win marks the Longhorns' eighth championship in program history — all since 2013.

In all, Lambert produced the top two finishers and four of the top five.

Averi Cline shot a 3-under 141 to place second, finishing under par both days. Iris Cao carded a 3-over 147 to finish fourth and Emerson Elm placed fifth with a 4-over 148.

Cline went 2-under on Monday and entered the final round with the tournament's lowest score. She cruised through the first 16 holes Tuesday, collecting four birdies against just one bogey.

Cline and Im both contended for low-medalist honors for much of the tournament, which helped create an insurmountable gap between the Longhorns are the rest of the field.

"The other good thing about it is they push each other," Fortenberry said. "If you think Iris didn't want to win this tournament or Averi didn't want to win this tournament or, heck, throw any of my three freshmen in there — all of them wanted to win the tournament. They understand the team dynamic, but they also like to compete against each other."

Im knocked down five birdies through the first 10 holes Tuesday and added two more on the back end of the back nine.

She didn't know it at the time, but Im was already leading the field once she made the turn.

"I actually didn't know what was happening for me — I don't know about Averi," Im said. "I just knew that I needed birdies, because you can birdie out here pretty easily. There are reachable par fives and short par fours. There are two reachable par fives in the last five holes, so I knew I needed to birdie them because I lose a stroke from the whole field if I par them."

Im birdied both of those par fives on 15 and 18 on Tuesday, and she played the final six holes at 4-under for the tournament.

"We would have had a streak of 10 scores in the 70s, but Sara messed it up by shooting in the 60s," Fortenberry said with a laugh.

Im said she hasn't played a round at or over par since winning the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Puerto Rico last month. She qualified earlier this month for the U.S. Women's Open in June after going 5-under at the qualifier. 

"I've been playing good golf for a couple of weeks now, so I knew I could do it ... I'm just glad I was able to come through," Im said.

Lambert will lose Cline and Cao to graduation, and perhaps Im to a rigorous tournament schedule during her senior year, but Fortenberry credits his upperclassmen with preparing the Longhorns' younger golfers to step in when they're called upon.

South finished 11th as a team, buoyed by a 9-over 81 from Kennedy Arnette that tied her for 10th. Hailey tied for 29th with a 39-over 183 and Katie George shot a 101-over 245 to finish tied for 59th. 

Forsyth Central's Lauren Smith shot a 97 on Tuesday, improving upon her first-round total by 11 strokes to finish 61-over 205 to finish in 44th place.

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On the boys side, a pair of Forsyth County teams placed inside the top four at the Class 7A state tournament at Chattahoochee Golf Club in Gainesville, with Lambert finishing third and North Forsyth finishing fourth. 

The top four Longhorns combined to make the turn at 3-over, threatening to displace a Gainesville team that entered the final round with a three-stroke lead that dissipated early Tuesday.

Wesley Hu was exceptional on the front nine, overcoming an early bogey to make the turn at 2-under thanks to birdies holes 3, 5 and 8. 

Michael Lee and Kyle Stine each collected their second birdie of the afternoon on hole No. 10, but those marked the Longhorns' final scores under par as defending state champion Milton surged ahead and finished the round with a 1-over 289 to earn a 15-stroke victory.

Lee finished tied for seventh with a 3-over 147, while Nick Schwendiman placed 13th with a 5-over 149. Hu ended up tied for 14th after a 6-over 150 and Andy Cruz shot a 9-over 153 that tied him for 25th.

North had a pair of top-10 finishers, as Dax Isbell and Brodie Mizer each finished the tournament tied for 10th with 4-over 148. Cole Isbell shot an 8-over 152 to tie for 22nd and Alex Miggas tied for 29th with a 12-over 156.

West Forsyth placed 12th as a team, carding an 81-over 657. The Wolverines were led by Blake Fields' 16-over 16, which tied him for 41st place individually. Jimmy Coleman tied for 51st with a 21-over 165, Saketh Amble tied for 53rd with a 22-over 166 and Pride Dyer shot a 26-over 170 to tie for 63rd place.

Central junior Jack Darke tied with Lambert's Lee for the county's top individual performance, carding a 3-over 147 to tie for seventh place.