A vision four years in the making came into fruition for Kurt Hitzeman.
The Carrollton High School boys' head golf coach has seen the Trojan Invitational evolve to become a signature event not just across the state, but the entire Southeast and this past weekend certainly lived up to that billing.
Between the accommodations from host Sunset Hills Country Club, spearheaded by General Manager Justin Japour and Men's Golf Association President Shane Miles, to the elite field of teams and competitors on hand, the 2018 Trojan Invitational had just about everything a golf enthusiast could ask for over the past two days.
And following 36 holes of down-to-the-wire action, Auburn (Ala.) captured the team title with rounds of 300 and 293 for a 593 overall, edging out Columbus (307-292 599) and St. Pius X (303-302 605) among the top three. The host Trojans placed eighth (328-326 654) with two solid rounds from their young squad.
When it came to the individual highlights, Ben Carr of Columbus finished as the low medalist by carding a 4-under-par (71-67 138). Joining him on the all-tournament team was fellow Blue Devil Jonathan Parker in second at +2 (71-73 144), Luke Phillips of Starr's Mill in third at +5 (76-71 147), Auburn's Davis Boone and Jack McDonald of St. Pius tied for fourth at +6 (74-74 148) and Garrison Guthrie of Auburn in sixth at +7 (75-54 149).
Needless to say, Hitzeman couldn't complain about how everything unfolded over the two-day showcase.
"It was a goal from the beginning of the program that in order to be a top-flight program, you have a responsibility to give back, as well," Hitzeman said. "I thought if we could host the best tournament in the state, by god we'd be one of the best teams in the state, be well-respected and we'd also get the reciprocity from other teams and we'd get invited to big events. We certainly put a step forward in the right direction this weekend."
For the host Trojans, Cole New turned in the top score for the weekend by tying for 22nd place at +17 (81-79 159) and he was followed by Mario Perezcassar III and Luke Pezold in a tie for 24th at +18 with the junior Perezcassar shooting back-to-back rounds of 80, while the freshman Pezold was nearly identical at 79-81 for his 160.
Freshman Jacob Shadrix was the No. 4 scorer for Carrollton at +39 (94-87 181) and senior Clay Fontenot was one stroke behind him (88-94 182). Sophomore Luke Shilling rounded out the Trojans' top six (98-92 190).
"My guys have been great. This is the most consistent team that we've had at Carrollton since I've been doing this," Hitzeman said. "I've had teams that shot lower, but they'd back a 308 with a 348. Where this team, they just don't give in to the course and they don't give in to a bad round. If one of them happens to slip, another one picks them up. It's kind of extraordinary the consistency that we've had throughout the season."
"Ben Carr has won a string of tournaments this season. Ben is probably going to be player of the year for the entire state of Georgia across all classifications. He's a very worthy champion," Hitzeman said.
"What's great about Sunset Hills is Sunset Hills is going to give you the best golfer and the best team. It's not going to be tricky to the point where somebody will slip up and have a good round that really shouldn't. It can't fool a good golfer too much, it's also not going to play wide open where a good golfer has a great round. Ben is a worthy champion. To shoot 4-under in these winds, I hate to say it's not great, but it's kind of what he's been doing all year long. He's conquered every course he's been to. He came close to matching our tournament record. The tournament record is 135 and he goes 138, so that's pretty good."
And when reflecting on the weekend that was, Hitzeman thought all the moving parts came together perfectly to put on a production that left everyone satisfied upon heading home early Saturday evening.
"People left here happy and they all had great comments for how they felt the country club here pitched in and really supported this event," Hitzeman said. "I think that whereas this is something that we've created that I envisioned a number of years back, I think there's also a vision for what we can make it in the future, as well. We're not done and we're not going to be settled here where we're at. We're going to say, 'OK, how can we get better next year?' We want to consistently raise the bar. That's people in this community, people at this club and people at Carrollton City Schools. We're not the type of people to just be complacent. We want to be better tomorrow than we were today."