AUSTIN — Sporting a 10-stroke lead halfway through the tournament, the Blanket Lady Tigers
shaved eight strokes off their opening round tally over the final 18 holes Tuesday at Lions Municipal Golf Course and coasted to a 29-stroke victory and the Class A Girls Golf State Championship.
“Our girls did a super job,” said Blanket golf coach Monty Jones. “We were comfortable playing with the lead and didn't mind it. They reshuffled the pairings and we were with Iredell, Tioga and Utopia and we knew what they had to offer. We were pretty confident, we just talked about playing it safe and that we didn't need to take any chances. It wasn't error free, but we did it.”
The team title wasn't the only medals earned, however, as Lady Tiger junior Marki Kinkade erased a three-shot deficit over the final 18 holes and captured the individual state championship by one stroke over first-round leader Skylar Mast of Richards.
“I went into today's round just hoping to medal,” Kinkade said. “The team winning was my main goal. We were trying to not let being in front put any pressure on us. We just had to play like we were supposed to.”
Jones added, “Marki played awesome today. She made some outside chips and putts. It may have been her best putting day in two years. The girls that were No. 1s for the other teams didn't play so well and I was concerned Marki might fall in with them. But she kept pouring it on.”
The Lady Tigers shot a 382 team score Monday, which led defending state champion Utopia by 10 strokes. While Utopia answered with a 393 Tuesday, Blanket carded a 374 to widen the gap over the final 18 holes.
Kinkade fired a 79 Tuesday, tying for the low round of the day, along with Monday's 81 for a 160 composite score, which topped runner-up and first-round leader Skylar Mast of Richards (78-83=161). along with two-time defending state champion and bronze medalist Shaley Goad of Fort Elliott (80-84=164).
Cassie Furry (100-91=191) improved by nine strokes and finished 10th overall, Emily Furry (100-97=197) cut three strokes off in the second round and came in 17th and Kenzie Tidwell (101-107=208) placed 33rd.
Blanket finished with a two-day, 36-hole team total of 765, trailed by runner-up Utopia (785) and bronze medalist Happy (808).
“For the girls it was kind of redemption,” Jones said. “Last year with the scores we posted coming in we should we have been favored, we just didn't get the job done. We knew all we had to do was play good, solid golf. We only had four players while everyone else had five, but we don't see that as a liability, we just get after it and play.”
Kinkade added, “We were a lot calmer and got over our bad shots this year.” Carrying a 10-stroke advantage into the final round only further boosted the Lady Tigers' confidence. “We were really excited because last year we got fourth and we were close to the bottom at the end of the first day. That just showed how much we've improved and how hard we've worked,” Kinkade said.
While team championship was easily in Blanket's grasp, the individual title came down to the last hole.
“We would get updates every so often from parents and other people keeping an eye on it, but Marki didn't know until the last hole what she had to do,” Jones said. “She ended up with a par and that's what kept the one-stroke lead.”
But Jones credits Kinkade's performance on the 16th hole as the key to her gold medal finish.
“She got in trouble on 16, way deep in the woods,” Jones said. “We had a long talk about what we should do and could do. She made the decision to go back to the tee box and hit a beautiful shot down the middle of fairway. The second shot was a little below the hole and she ended up with a bogey. I feel like that one hole won her the tournament. She didn't she panic when that hole could have been disastrous.”
Kinkade, who was the state runner-up as a freshman and placed seventh as a sophomore, credited her victory to the familiarity with Lions Municipal Golf Course and a relaxed approach.
“It helped a lot that I know the course real well,” Kinkade said. “I knew where to hit the ball to not be in trouble. I wasn't really too worried about the two girls in front of me, they had the pressure on them. I really wasn't worried about my place. I just went out and played.”
Also competing at state was Richland Springs' Kamree Lewis, who finished 30th overall with a two-round total of 206 following scores of 101 and 105.