SF sophmore Sydney Easterwood (above) and team mate McKenzee Pane with Deviletts coach Joe Brown
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
MANCHESTER — It’s not how you start, but rather how you finish.
After a rough beginning, each of the three local participants in the Class A-AA State Golf Tournament righted their respective ships to finish Day 1 of the championships on a positive note Tuesday and head into today’s play with some momentum.
Union City’s Mollie Stone — making her third consecutive appearance in the event — rebounded from a double-bogey start and a 46 on her first nine holes with a 42 after the turn to place 18th in the 55-player field with an 88 at the Willowbrook Golf Club.
Stone, who finished 26th and 22nd in her other two trips to the state, is 17 strokes behind first-day leader Sophia Schubert of Christian Academy of Knoxville, who won the tourney two years ago as a freshman.
Schubert, who played in the same foursome with Stone, has a six-shot lead over Lauren Gammons of Macon County heading into today’s play in the 36-hole tournament.
The South Fulton duo of McKenzee Pane and Sydney Easterwood also shook off shaky play at the beginning of Tuesday’s round to finish with a good vibe.
Like Stone, Pane and Easterwood stumbled out of the starting gate on the back-nine — Pane double-bogeying Hole No. 10, while Easterwood five-putted from about 25 feet after reaching the green in regulation to finish with a triple bogey.
Both knocked scores off their front-nine total, though, Pane — playing on the state level for the second year in a row — carding a 46 after recording a 49 on the back side for a 95 total that put her in a tie for 33rd.
As a sophomore, she shot a pair of 106s to end up 46th in the field.
Easterwood, a promising 10th-grader who picked up the sport less than two years ago, shaved nine shots off her first-nine total, shooting 50 on the front side after a tough start.
All three were again to start on Hole No. 10 on Day 2 today, Stone teeing off at 9:40, with Pane and Easterwood slated to begin at 10 and 10:30 a.m., respectively.
UC head coach Jason Qualls said Stone showed great maturity and the experience of a player who’d been on the big stage before while rebounding from her uncharacteristic start Tuesday.
“A couple of years ago, she would’ve let that rattle her the rest of the round,” Qualls insisted. “What you saw today was just someone who has been in this situation before and someone who played very smart golf after she hit a bad shot. She didn’t compound things by taking a risk on a second shot or the next hole; she just kept her composure and took big numbers out of the equation.
“There were a couple of holes that would’ve been a whole lot worse two years ago than there were today.”
Stone’s second-nine score included a birdie — on the par-4 fourth hole — and a couple of pars.
Qualls predicted his senior could put a cap on her stellar prep career with “a typical Mollie Stone round of 79 or 80 that could get her in the Top 4 or 5.”
Pane said the seasoning she gained a year ago helped her get past a disappointing first hole 6 on the par-4 10th and a 12-over par score on her opening nine holes.
“I just had to remember that I had nine more holes to go and there was nothing I could do about the first nine,” she claimed. “It helped me having played here last year because I knew what to expect. It was a little tough early because of the cold, and I had to club-up one.
“My goal coming in is still attainable. I want to finish in the Top 20, and if I go out and play like I can, I can reach that.”
The highlight of Pane’s first nine holes was a birdie-two on the par-3 17th hole that helped ease some of the frustrations of three straight 7s on Holes 12-14.
Easterwood, who head coach Joe Brown insisted “has a great future when her short game catches up to her ball-striking ability,” admitted she was nervous initially on the big stage — leading to her five-putt effort on her first hole.
“I was (nervous) at first, my first nine holes showed that,” she said. “When I got that out of my system, I played better.
“My hands were shaking at first, but I think that was more from the cold (temperatures were in the low-40s to start the round) than anything else.
“I just want to play the best I can tomorrow (today).”
Easterwood’s 109 total has her in 48th place.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.10.12