(Updated 11/23/2010….Kristi Ingram verbally commits to Elon University)
PINEHURST – Kristi Ingram gave up basketball her sophomore year to focus on golf.
The senior from Winston-Salem’s Mount Tabor High School enjoyed net gains from that decision in early November. Ingram recorded rounds of 73 and 71 on Pinehurst No. 1’s par-72, 5,713-yard layout to earn a two-shot victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 4-A Championship.
The win came on the heels of steady improvement for the four-time state championship qualifier. She started competing in tournaments at the age of 8, playing for fun because her dad and brother played. She started taking the game seriously that sophomore year, which ended with a top-20 showing at states thanks to her first rounds in the 70s.
After last season’s 11th-place finish in the finale, Ingram broke through, defeating North Mecklenburg’s Katie Kirk by two shots and Fayetteville Sanford’s Suzie Choe by three.
“The first day was pretty comfortable,” Ingram said. “The second day I was trying to stay comfortable, trying to hold on to the lead and stay focused, not let it get to me. Katie was keeping it close. She made me play better and play smarter.”
Mount Tabor coach Garland Layton praised Ingram’s steady play from Sunday’s practice round through Tuesday’s 18th hole. He never saw the Central Piedmont Conference’s four-time Player of the Year get rattled.
Ingram chipped in for a nice birdie on the fourth hole in her final round – but added that she had other chips she’d like to have back. For the most part, though, Ingram competed at a steady pace that would make her impossible to catch.
“I never let a bad hole get to me,” Ingram said. “Even if I hit a good shot, I don’t get too excited. Move on and keep moving forward, because that hole’s in the past.”
Layton got to see it all unfold before him since Ingram qualified as an individual and he could follow her every move.
“No defining moment, no big charge – just steady as a rock,” Layton said. “She had a bogey on the back nine on Tuesday and came off grinning, made a face like, ‘I know I shouldn’t have done that.’ That’s when it hit me, ‘This is her’s to win.’ ”
In this case, good things came to those who waited. Individuals go out earlier than the team leaders in the state tournament, meaning Ingram endured an hour’s wait in the clubhouse to see if her even-par round of 144 would prevail. Ingram said she walked around inside, trying to stay loose while avoiding the scorecard table. Both she and Layton joked that Chris Ingram – Kristi’s father – suffered the most during the agonizing delay.
“He wanted it for me so bad,” she said.
The family got it, and a whole lot more.
Prior to the state championship, the senior had been leaning toward college scholarship offers to schools such as High Point University and UNC Wilmington. While those Division-I programs remain “in the mix,” this victory has put Ingram’s college decision on hold.
Hearing from coaches at ACC schools can make one pause. Ingram knows she wants to play college golf. She knows she wants to major in international business and perhaps minor in sports management. She knows great options await her. On November 23, 2010, Ingram verbally committed to Elon University.
“Just wait until the time is right, find the right university for me,” Ingram said of her timetable – or lack thereof – in choosing her school.
Ingram will be worth the wait, Layton offered.
“She’s something special,” the coach said, “and I think the best is yet to come.”
Ingram was chased in Round 1 by several Triad-area competitors who enjoyed strong showings in the championship.
Morgan Cranford of Greensboro Grimsley rebounded from an opening 77 with a 74 in her second round to land alone in fifth place. Davie County’s Gabriela Chaloupkova carded rounds of 75 and 78 for a 153 total that was good for a sixth-place tie. Reagan High’s Victoria Allred, just a freshman, sparkled with an opening 74 and finished her first state final with a 157, tied for 11th place. Ragsdale’s Lily Crane was a shot back to round out the top 14.
In the team race, Charlotte school Ardrey Kell ended the two-year championship reign enjoyed by Raleigh’s Athens Drive, carding rounds of 241 and 236 for a team score of 477. Athens Drive finished at 248 (240-248). That total was good for a six-shot margin over Reagan (245-249). Greensboro’s Page, Grimsley and Northwest Guilford all qualified for the event. Ardrey Kell’s breakthrough came one year after the Knights watched Athens Drive rally for a title. Last fall, Kell owned a six-shot lead following the first round only to watch the Jaguars win head-to-head by 17 shots in Round 2.
Between Ingram’s win for Mount Tabor and the strong showings by Reagan and Davie County, it proved to be a great year for the Central Piedmont Conference golfers. Reagan, fourth in the state last season, capped 2010 with a 65-4 record that included its second straight CPC title.
Great talent returns for many of this year’s top squads. Reagan loses senior Meredith Mock – a four-year state qualifier who competed in 190 team wins in her career – but returns three underclassmen. Reagan will be a contender for state titles the next two years.
Along with Allred came sophomore Hannah Craver, who was 15th individually at 80-81–161. Mock was 35th at 91-85–176, and sophomore Chloe Sizemore qualified for the championship and gained valuable experience in only her first year playing golf.