|Elements can’t keep UC senior, SF duo from ’12 final round |
|Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 6:32 am |
| By MIKE HUTCHENS |
Messenger Sports Editor
Neither rain, wind, nor muddy golf course conditions could keep Mollie Stone from making her scheduled round(s).
Playing in the aforementioned elements in the Region 7A-AA Tournament Monday, Union City High School’s Stone qualified for the state tournament for the third consecutive year with a runnerup-finish at The Farms in Dyersburg.
Stone, who finished 22nd in a 52-player field at the WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester last year and 26th as a sophomore, will again compete against the best prep golfers in Tennessee Oct. 9-10 in a 36-hole competition.
She’ll be joined at the event by a pair of South Fulton underclassmen as junior McKenzee Pane earned a return trip after qualifying, too, a year ago, while sophomore Sydney Easterwood also made it in as one of the Top 5 finishers individually not on tournament champion Milan’s roster.
South Fulton placed second in the team competition on the girls’ side, with UC third and Obion Central fourth.
The Red Devil boys finished in a tie for third behind match titleist Milan, which won a playoff with Gibson County for the tournament championship after both shot 355 in regulation.
David Kent Brundige shot a team-best 82 for SF, which came in with a 367 as a team. Justin Johns carded an 86, Easton Woolf shot 94 and Harrison Hawks 95.
Stone, who lost a one-hole playoff to Milan’s Rilee Taylor after both girls finished regulation with 79s to place second individually, actually played her best Monday in the worst conditions.
Starting on the back-nine in pelting rain, shifting winds and chilly temperatures, she birdied her first hole and had another birdie before the turn to finish with a 1-over 37. She was 6-over 42 on Holes 1-9 and missed a short birdie putt on the final hole that would’ve given her medalist honors.
Stone then lipped out a par putt on that same ninth hole while Taylor carded a 3.
The UCHS senior insisted Mother Nature was not going to be a deterrent in her quest for a third consecutive state tourney trip. And the soggy trek was similar to that of the Milan Country Club last year when she shot well enough to qualify.
“I definitely play better in the rain,” Stone said after Monday’s action was completed. “I think a lot of it is mindset — a lot of the girls this morning were saying they just wanted to cancel — but I wanted to play.”
UC head coach Jason Qualls wasn’t surprised at Stone’s solid play in the inclement conditions that allowed players to lift-clean-and-place.
“It was just a testament of her focus. She knew what she wanted to do and what she needed to do to accomplish her goal,” Qualls said. “She jumped out there and birdied her first hole in the rain, and I think that set the tone for the rest of her round.
“She’s put in the work in the summer and in the offseason to get better. And I think she has a real chance to go up there (to state) and shoot a 78 or 79 and be really competitive against the best.”
Stone has indeed played the Manchester course a couple of times since shooting 92-86 in last year’s state tourney. She said she finished fifth in one summer event there and sixth in another.
“I love that course,” she said.
Stone will have some familiar company in the field in South Fulton’s Pane and Easterwood.
Pane carded a 93 and Easterwood a 100 in Monday’s competition.
And the return trip to the state will serve as great seasoning for a young and up-and-coming Devilette squad.
“The more times you get there, the more comfortable you get on the big stage,” said first-year SFHS coach Joe Brown. “I obviously expect McKenzee to be more comfortable this year and to not be overwhelmed by her surroundings. And if Sydney has the jitters, I’m hopeful that she can look to her teammate and see calm, and it will settle her down.
“I thought they both played fairly well today in the conditions. They have to learn to get over a bad hole quickly, though. You can’t let that carry over to the next one. And they both need to putt better. Sydney is really striping the ball. She just needs to putt a little better.”
Pane finished 46th last year at Willowbrook, shooting a pair of 106s. She bettered her regional score of last year by two strokes on Monday.
Easterwood shot four shots better Monday than at the same level a year ago.
Central’s Ashlyn Runions came in with a 106, while Samantha Wallace shot 117.
“I was proud of my girls; they played through some tough conditions,” OC head coach Donnie Walton said of the Lady Rebel duo.
It was the second straight year the pair made it to the regionals.
Cailee Sinclair shot 125 to couple with Stone’s 79 and give Union City third-place honors.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com. Published in The Messenger 10.2.12