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Golf: Cao wins low medalist, Lambert girls cruise to area championship
Lambert sophomore Sara Im tees off on hole No. 15 during the 2021 Area 2-7A tournament. - photo by David Roberts

DAWSONVILLE — Iris Cao's afternoon couldn't have started any worse.

It couldn't have ended much better.

Cao double-bogied her first hole Tuesday at the Area 2-7A tournament at Chestatee Golf Club, but it proved to be one of few miscues for Cao, who carded four birdies and two eagles and helped Lambert to a 59-stroke victory 

"I knew that when I doubled it, I needed to get it back somehow," Cao said. "Honestly, starting off with a bogey, or something like that — obviously, I would prefer not to double it — but starting off with a bogey just drives me to play better later in the round to make up for it."

Cao got those two strokes back three holes later, when she eagled the par-4 No. 4. 

Cao's drive came up a bit shorter than she expected, but Cao pulled out her gap wedge and holed out from the fairway, 102 yards from the pin. 

Cao birdied three of her next four holes, then added another on No. 15, just before her second eagle of the afternoon.

"It was a par 5 and I couldn't hit my driver off the tee, because if you hit a driver off the tee, your shot would be too long and you would have trees in your way for the second shot," Cao said.

So, Cao went to work, hitting a drive that left her about 180 yards from the green. Cao's approach shot flew off her 4 hybrid and onto the green, leaving a manageable putt that fell in for eagle after a 360-degree trip around the lip.

Cao was one of three Longhorns to card a 2-under 69, joining Sara Im and Sharon Mun, while Averi Cline added an even 71 for a Lambert team that finished 6-under 207.

"We've finished the last two tournaments under par, which that's kind of a new thing for Lambert," Lambert coach Shane Fortenberry said. "We've had really good teams in the past, but not as consistent with this many girls who can shoot under par and can go low."

Mun provided Lambert's first eagle of the day on No. 1, managing to eagle the hole minutes after it stumped Cao. 

Cline had an impressive birdie on No. 14, when her chip shot from the fringe of the green found the hole from about 15 yards out. 

"They kind of feed off one another," Fortenberry said. "They pay attention and they encourage each other when one is doing good, but they're competitive enough and try to beat each other at the same time. It's a lot of fun to be around."

South Forsyth finished in second place with a 268 team score. Kennedy Arnette led the War Eagles with an 8-over 79, while Elise Forberg finished with an 86. 

Gainesville finished third behind Karina Collins' 9-over 80 and West Forsyth finished 14 strokes ahead of Forsyth Central to claim fourth place. Samantha Hobbs and Michelle Chambers each shot a 94 for the Wolverines.

Central's Samantha Dewendt shot an 86 to qualify individually for the Class 7A state tournament.

Lambert and South qualify directly for the Class 7A state tournament, which is scheduled for May 17-18 at Sunset Country Club in Moultrie. 

West will compete in the Class 7A sectionals on May 4 at Mirror Lake Golf Club in Villa Rica for a chance to reach the state tournament.

Lambert has won every tournament this season and will carry its undefeated record into the state tournament. 

"Some people might say, 'Oh, don't you guys get bored?' Winning feels great every time, I'd say," Cao said. "I'm excited to see what we can do at state."