SANFORD — Green Hope’s Maddie Lee and Maddi MacClurg weren’t happy with themselves after 18 holes of play at the Sanford Golf Course on Monday. But they couldn’t help but smile wide.
Throughout the year, Lee and MacClurg were Green Hope’s top two golfers. But in the Tri-9 Conference tournament, Lee was tied for third on her team and MacClurg was fifth. But figuring out what to improve could wait for the car ride back to Cary.
As seniors, they were the ones who got to hoist the trophies for sweeping this year’s regular season and tournament titles.
The Falcons shot 248 as a team to win the school’s first conference tournament title, an honor that had belonged to Athens Drive in each of the previous five seasons.
“Our girls really like one another, they really believe in one another, they understand the concept of team,” said Green Hope coach Donna Lerner, who was named Tri-9 coach of the year. “So if one’s having a tough day, they know they can lean on their partners. Our best scores today were our No. 4 and 5 player.That’s a beatiful thing.”
Green Hope sophomore Amanda Yannoni led the way with a 79, while Sophie Riegel backed her up with an 81. Meghan Symonds tied Lee’s 88 to round out the four scorers that counted to the team score. All five players made the all-conference team, and all were within a few strokes of each other.
All of that bodes well for the 4A East regional on Monday.
“We’re all so close in scoring average that we don’t really care who beats who,” Lee said. “We’re always there for each other whenever one of us plays bad because it doesn’t matter who wins, it’s about the team.”
Last year, the Falcons had no momentum going into regionals. Its conference player of the year moved with her family right at season’s end, and others were called on whether they were ready or not.
This year, everyone on Green Hope is ready to help.
“Playing on such a good team, you learn to have that competitve drive with one another so that when you go play in the actual matches, you already hav that competive drive there,” MacClurg said.
Athens Drive’s Sarah Bae shot a 1-over 72 on the day, edging Fuquay-Varina sophomore Catherine Ashworth (74) and Apex senior Cari Albritton (78).
It set a new course record for a female hitting from the * tees, although that title comes with a bit of technicality – the course has never hosted an 18-hole women’s tournament before.
Bae received her medalist award for the day as well as her conference player of the year award after averaging just 35 strokes per nine holes on the season. It was the first time she had won the Tri-9 player of the year, but the only thing standing in the way of her achieving this honor in previous season is a conference bylaw that players can only miss one match and still be eligible for the award.
Bae, who is committed to High Point University, finished third in the state and won the 4A East regional last year, but wasn’t conference player of the year.
Now she’s finally got the Tri-9’s award, and next on the list is a 4A title.
“Hopefully I get to win it this year. It’s my last (tournament) anyway. I’m really looking forward to it,” Bae said.
The top four teams in the tournament – Green Hope (248), Apex (256), Middle Creek (257) and Holly Springs (262) – all advanced to the 4A East regional. Last year, the Tri-9 took top four at the regional and advanced all four of its teams to the state tournament, with Middle Creek winning the regional and Athens Drive winning the state.
If this year isn’t as strong team-wise, it’s made up for it in individual player strength. All 12 players on the all-conference list averaged less than 40.67 strokes per nine holes this year.
Holly Springs’ Leigha Holt (79) was fifth in the tournament, while Lee County’s Muk Shoomee, who finished runner-up in the conference player of the year race, was eigth with an 82.
The end of the tournament had two warm goodbyes. The first was to the Sanford Golf Course and Lee County, which will be dropping to 3A next year and competing in a different league.
The last goodbye was to Athens Drive coach Tony Alcon, the three-time state champion coach (2008, 2009, 2011) will be retiring from teaching and coaching after this season.
Blake: 919-460-2606 or twitter.com/JMBpreps