When the Walton girls golf team trailed by six shots after the first round of the Cobb County Invitational in March, coach Richard Myrick looked for a sign.
That sign came from senior Catarina Cutter.
"She decided we weren't going to lose," Myrick said. "She went out, played great, and we won by five or six shots."
Cutter shot 39 in the second round, and Myrick said it showed what the team was capable of going forward. Walton won the tournament, finished second in five events and finished fifth in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament.
"We were so young, it was kind of a surprise," said Myrick, the 2019 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Golf Coach of the Year, "but, toward the end of the year, we just kept getting better.
"Any time you win a coach's award, it's a reflection of the players. My girls work hard, and they were determined to go to state."
Walton shot 259 in the Area 3AAAAAAA tournament to finish third and qualify for state. Once the Lady Raiders got to Chimney Hills Golf Club in Homer, they had completed their main goal of the season. It was their 12th straight trip to state, but it did not start as well as the team had hoped.
A first-day score of 262 left Walton in seventh place, but like the county tournament earlier in the season, the Lady Raiders rallied on Day 2. A score of 239, led by Cutter's 76, was the third-best team score of the day and lifted Walton to fifth place.
"We lost five seniors off last year's team to graduation," Myrick said. "These girls were overachievers."
Myrick added that one of the reasons the team was able to bounce back so quickly from losing such an experienced roster was his players' mental toughness, which he said started not on the golf course, but in the classroom.
"I have 19 girls on the team," Myrick said. "They have an average grade-point average of 4.04. You have to be mentally strong to play golf."
Heading into next year, it appears as if Walton could be poised for another trip to state, and to possibly contend for the state title. Cutter, the 2019 team captain, is the only player who graduated. Audrey Stasko, MacKensie Kasetta, and Katherine Euston, who all contributed at state, will be back to lead Walton into the 2020 season.
"We expect big things next year," Myrick said.