WAKE FOREST — Courtney McKim was imagining the fourth birdie of her Monday opening nine before she reached the ninth green at Wake Forest Country Club.
The Wakefield junior's round was going well to that point. She stood 2-under par, well on the way to reaching her goal of a "red number" in the NCHSAA 4-A Eastern Girls' Golf Regional on the 5,094-yard, par-73 layout.
"I hit the green in two, and I knew all I had to do was lag it up there and take a four for 3 under on the front," McKim said of her plan for the 371-yard, par-5 ninth hole. "I just hit it too hard and had to settle for a par."
It was the kind of mistake that could have ruined a round. But McKim, who already has two top-15 individual state championship finishes on her resume, avoided the urge to simmer for the rest of her round.
Despite making a bogey at the 11th, she parred out on her final seven holes and won the regional title by three strokes, continuing what has become a stellar campaign. McKim won every Cap Seven Conference match that was played this season.
"Red numbers was my only goal today," McKim said of her round. "I wanted my score to be under par, and that was all I thought about. There are things I need to work on and could have done better today.
"Mentally, I just need to sharpen up a bit. There were times today when I feel like I let up. I'll need a full push next week."
McKim was the only player to finish under par in the event.
Thirty golfers from the regional field of 79 advanced to play in next week's 4-A state championships at Keith Hills Country Club in Buies Creek.
New Bern earned the regional title with a total of 243, which was 18 strokes better than regional runner-up Green Hope.
The Bears and Falcons join Wake Forest-Rolesville (which finished third at 264) and Broughton (fourth at 266) in the group that will be able to compete for the state team championship.
To be in the running for a team championship, a team must advance three individual qualifiers to the state championships. Team scores are computed from the three best scores on each squad.
Athens Drive's Katherine Perry, Middle Creek's Courtney Rouse and Tatum Briele of New Bern finished just behind McKim, all shooting 75s.
Senior Jessie Lacey led Green Hope's effort with a 81, which tied her for eighth with J.B. Shavlik of Broughton. Knightdale's Dana Watkins was sixth at 7-over 80, while Apex's Michelle Pilo was ninth and Clayton's Lizzie Bundy shot an 86 to take 10th.
A three-person playoff was held to determine the final two individual state qualifiers.
Middle Creek's Jacquelyn Tanner and Wake Forest-Rolesville's Anna Padgett advanced, while Apex's Kristen Schaible came up just short.