Rosters are not usually deep in high school girls golf. Schools often struggle to find three players, the number required to post a team score. Unlike other sports where there are junior varsity players ready to move up, girls golf teams can be here today, gone tomorrow.
That’s why freshmen can have a huge impact, a scenario that was in full focus at the 3A state tournament at Longleaf Golf & Country Club in late October.
Team champ Cardinal Gibbons of Raleigh got five of its six scores over two days from freshmen, second-place Waxhaw Marvin Ridge had two freshmen among its three players and third-place Rockingham County had a threesome of all freshmen.
The first-year players also took three of the top five spots on the individual leaderboard following medalist Siranon Shoomee, a junior from Lee County who won her second straight title after firing a final-round 67. Shoomee trailed freshman Gina Kim of Chapel Hill High, the top-ranked player in the state, by two shots after day one before making the charge. Kim shot 69-74 to finish second, and freshman Riley Smyth of Cardinal Gibbons was third at 73-76.
Northern Guilford junior Kendall Dobbins was fourth with 77-74, placing two shots ahead of Marvin Ridge freshman Ahra Ko, who posted 77-76.
It was Rockingham’s first ever trip to the state tourney after years of fielding a team and previously only sending one full team to regionals.
“We never had any girls take it this serious,” said Rockingham coach Mike Williams, who has headed the program for seven seasons. “These three all take lessons. They’re focused and they all want to play tournament golf. Their parents are very supportive. It makes my job real easy.”
Hailey Joy and Olivia John arrived with experience of playing the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour and other year-round competitions, and the Cougars went from also-ran to immediate contender in the Mid-State 3A Conference.
The third freshman, a relative newcomer to golf, was Evin Flinchum. She improved throughout the season and joined Joy and John in the conference top 10. Two juniors – Caroline Cummings and Lily Kinney – also contributed during the season as the Cougars rallied from a slow start to win the league title.
In the Central Regional, Joy tied for second and John tied for eighth to lead Rockingham’s third-place effort.
At states, John led the way with 80-84 to tie for 14th individually and Joy shot 79-86 to place 16th. Flinchum ended 54th with 93-101.
Cardinal Gibbons, which won the Central Regional, ran away to its first state championship after finishing third in 2012 and fourth in 2013. The Crusaders
claimed a 13-shot lead over Marvin Ridge with 232 in the opening round and added five shots to the margin on day two, ending with an 18-shot cushion.
Rockingham County was third, 50 shots back after shooting 252-271. Fayetteville Sanford was fourth, 59 shots off the pace, and Lee County was fifth, 65 shots behind. Ledford, which won the last three titles, settled for sixth among 10 teams.
Dobbins was making her third appearance at states. She tied for 23rd as a sophomore, helping the Nighthawks to second place as a team. As a freshman, she tied for 27th and the team finished seventh.
Although Northern didn’t qualify a team this year, she had an outstanding season, winning the Mid-State 2A Conference and sharing second at regionals before the third-place effort at Longleaf.
4A State Tournament
A team and players from the Triangle dominated the 4A state championship at Pinehurst No. 1.
Cary Green Hope won the team title by nine shots while the top four players in the individual standings were from Raleigh Athens Drive, Fuquay-Varina, Garner and team champ Green Hope.
Megan Symonds placed fourth individually and led Green Hope to its first title.
Freshman Jennifer Chang of Athens Drive shot 74-70 to take medalist honors by two shots over Fuquay-Varina senior Catherine Ashworth. Chang became the third straight Athens Drive player to capture the state title, following current High Point University standout Sarah Bae (2012) and Emilia Migliaccio. Still a sophomore at Athens Drive, Migliaccio opted to play the American Junior Golf Association circuit this fall instead of high school golf.
Greensboro Page, led by senior Ellis Hunter, led the Triad contingent with a sixth-place finish. Hunter held the first-round lead with 73 but fell back after a second-day 81. She was the only Triad player in the top 16.
Ragsdale, which won the Central Regional the week prior to states, settled for seventh place. Regional medalist Joliana Elias tied for 17th in the state with a pair of 79s.