BRASELTON — As the Lambert girls golf team stepped up to the first tee box for the second time of the day, golden late-afternoon sunlight illuminated the fairway at Chateau Elan's Woodlands Course. It was a bizarre conclusion to two days of golf marked by persistent rain, which forced a delay on the first day of action.
That was part of what made this year's Class 7A state golf tournament so taxing and memorable for Lambert. Then there was the reason the Longhorns were repeating the par-5 first hole: After 36 holes of golf, they were tied with Mill Creek at 472 strokes apiece. If Lambert were to win a fifth straight team title, it would be the tightest one yet.
"It was a cool feeling," Longhorns junior Kate Owens said, "because I knew if we were to win in a playoff, that would be an incredible way to win our fifth."
But one inevitability — the sun was going to show itself eventually — set the scene for what's starting to feel like one. It took one playoff hole for Lambert to seal the team championship.
"You would think you'd fall into a pattern of doing it, but it gets more exciting each and every year," Longhorns senior Christine McDonnell said.
Lambert's run of dominance in golf has little peers in the state, but over the years, the Longhorns' grip on the title has loosened. Three years ago, they won by 19 strokes. Last year, Lambert won by six.
And it was soon apparent that this year would be the closest yet, as the Longhorns led Mill Creek by just one stroke after the first day.
"It just goes to show you how much better girls golf is getting," Owens said. "It's not just handed to us every year."
In the second round, there was no collapse or torrid run to lengthen the gap. As the round went on, the gallery following the teams' top golfers grew in size. Mill Creek's boys, who had won the championship over Lambert by 17 strokes, came aboard and gave the Hawks a loud contingent.
That was enough to give Owens a twinge of fear that Lambert had fallen behind.
"I felt like I'd left a few out there," Owens said. "I've never been in a place where the state championship's been this close."
When the last four golfers to finish their rounds turned in their scorecards, though, the strange truth soon came out.
"Tess, we tied," Owens said to Mill Creek's Tess Davenport.
"What do we do?" Davenport asked.
When the crowd gathered in the clubhouse saw the official scores, gasps and murmurs filled the room. A few people clapped. And Davenport's question was soon answered: The teams would go to a playoff, and the one with the best three scores out of its four-golfer group would be the winner.
Lambert had four pars. Mill Creek had two pars, a bogey and a double bogey. When McDonnell holed her final putt, the Longhorns rushed onto the green to celebrate.
The victory was the continuation of a dynasty, but also an auspicious start to a new era. This year was Rosser's first coaching Lambert and her first coaching golf in general — she considers basketball to be her first sport. The weight of the four straight titles Joel Posey had won before her made the adjustment even more difficult.
"At school, people come up to you and they give you the nudge and they say, 'Hey, don't be the one to break it,'" Rosser said.
She didn't. And Lambert's seniors, just like the class of 2016, finish their careers with four state titles to their names.
"Gosh, you can't ask for a better team to go out and do it with," said Longhorns senior Alison Crenshaw, who played in her first state tournament this year. "Everyone had it a bit rough, but we all held it together."
South Forsyth finished fourth and North Forsyth finished ninth in the girls team standings. Lambert was second, South Forsyth was third and West Forsyth was fourth in the boys team standings.
1. Lambert 472 (+40)
2. Mill Creek 472 (+40)
3. Roswell 507
4. South Forsyth 516
5. North Gwinnett 523
9. North Forsyth 582
1. Abby Bolt, Woodstock, 147 (72-75)
T7. Alison Crenshaw, Lambert, 157 (79-78)
T7. Kate Owens, Lambert, 157 (79-78)
9. Christine McDonnell, Lambert, 158 (82-76)
10. Kelly Strickland, South Forsyth, 159 (80-79)
T22. Rillian West, North Forsyth, 171 (86-85)
T24. Loren Kim, Lambert, 172 (88-84)
T27. Maggie Sullens, North Forsyth, 176 (89-87)
29. Catherine Stoerker, South Forsyth, 178 (84-94)
T30. Samantha Bearden, South Forsyth, 179 (88-91)
50. Eliza Montgomery, North Forsyth, 235 (113-122)
53. Grace Ward, South Forsyth, 245 (126-119)
55. Annie Carpenter, North Forsyth, 256 (130-126)
1. Mill Creek 586
2. Lambert 603
3. South Forsyth 617
4. West Forsyth 622
5. Camden County 632
11. North Forsyth 652
1. Peter Chung, Mill Creek, 142 (72-70)
2. Grant Sutliff, Lambert, 145 (72-73)
T6. Erik Forberg, South Forsyth, 150 (74-76)
T10. Jason Quinlan, West Forsyth, 152 (78-74)
T10. Mitchell Taylor, Lambert, 152 (76-76)
T15. Barrett Hopper, South Forsyth, 154 (77-77)
T15. Kevin Stine, Lambert, 154 (78-76)
T18. John Lichtenwalner, South Forsyth, 155 (75-80)
T18. Stephen Foernsler, Lambert, 155 (74-81)
T24. Peyton Balent, West Forsyth, 157 (79-78)
T24. Ryan Pollman, West Forsyth, 157 (80-77)
T29. Corey Chrzanowski, Lambert, 158 (77-81)
T29. Griffin Orzech, North Forsyth, 158 (84-74)
T33. Bo Barnes, North Forsyth, 159 (77-82)
T37. Connor Pollman, West Forsyth, 160 (83-77)
T43. Parker Duncan, South Forsyth, 162 (79-83)
T45. Jordan Baker, Lambert, 163 (84-79)
T45. Trevor Plink, South Forsyth, 163 (80-83)
T51. Cameron Stokes, South Forsyth, 164 (85-79)
T60. Jackson Boone, North Forsyth, 166 (78-88)
T64. Austin Jaynes, West Forsyth, 167 (79-88)
77. Connor Ferri, West Forsyth, 171 (89-82)
T78. Nick Lasseter, North Forsyth, 172 (87-85)
T94. Drew Nizialek, North Forsyth, 180 (85-95)