May 28—The 2021 golf season for Northwest Whitfield High School's Sara Burger didn't get off to the best of starts, but it certainly ended well.
Burger was in a car accident in February. She wasn't seriously hurt, other than some inflammation and soreness, but the golf season started with her in physical therapy instead of on the golf course.
"I was put out for a couple of tournaments, and that really set me back," Burger said. "I was really determined to get back and try my hardest to work and achieve everything that I could."
She ended up achieving quite a bit.
Burger finished as the individual champion at the Class 4A state tournament in Athens last week, while helping lead the Lady Bruins to the third place overall finish. Burger also finished as the low medalist at the Class 4A Area 4 tournament, with Northwest winning the area championship.
The accident delayed an already long-awaited golf season for Burger, who was a junior in 2021. Her sophomore campaign was wiped out because the COVID-19 pandemic led to a cancellation of spring sports seasons in the state in 2020.
"It was late," Burger said. "And we didn't have a season last year with COVID and everything, so I was ready to get started."
Once she did, those wins started rolling in.
The region victory led into the state tournament for the Lady Bruins, which was at the University of Georgia's course.
"It's a really tough course," Burger said. "I had only played it one time over the summer. I knew I couldn't have any bad days."
A good day on the first in the state tournament left her tied for the lead with North Oconee's Madi Chappell.
"After the first day, I was tied, so I thought about what I could do the next day to play the course better," Burger said. "I just stayed calm and stayed focused. Whenever I go out there, I just have to have the right mindset to win. I was able to get the lead, then I just played the course really well and didn't get into much trouble."
Burger pulled away over the course of the round to win the individual championship by six strokes over Chappell, shooting a 72 in the final round.
Chappell's North Oconee won the team state championship. Marist was second, with the Lady Bruins right behind.
"I've had the blessing of being with these girls the past three years that I've been here," Burger said. "I'm just really thankful that we were able to finish as highly as we did."
Burger has another year left at Northwest, but she's received interest from a few college programs, including her hometown team at Dalton State College. Her win earned her a congratulatory phone call from Jim McGrew, the Lady Roadrunners coach, who coached golf at Northwest prior to his current role.
"He said, 'How does it feel to be the first state champion in Northwest history?' 'I was like, It feels great, because I didn't know that.' Now that I do, it feels great."