PADUCAH – For much of the field, Monday’s Region 1 women’s golf tournament was about survival as much as chasing low scores.
Simply put, the Paducah Country Club course has had a reputation as one of the toughest in Kentucky for many years and it more than demonstrated that reputation on Monday. More than one bullet has found the woods, the sand or, yes, the water.
However, it’s in a situation like this that players and teams who find that small dose of resolve to remain patient and keep things simple in the face of this monstrosity to not only survive, but succeed. That’s what Murray High did as a team, along with Calloway County’s Javen Campbell and they’re going to the next level of the playoffs because of it.
Murray High was battered and bloodied but still managed a team score of 379 and earned second place and a berth in the subsection round next week in Owensboro. Campbell’s 18-hole score of 91 was also enough to earn one of the qualifying spots for the subsection.
For Murray High, it will be the first time the Lady Tigers have competed in a state tournament as a team since 2017, when they finished seventh at Bowling Green.
“I knew it was going to be close. We just had to keep fighting. If you had a bad hole, you couldn’t get upset. You had to keep playing,” said Murray High head coach Denise Whitaker, who became emotional as she recalled a specific year when a Lady Tiger player narrowly missed out on a state nomination after a day of combat on the course of the CCP. Her tears, this time, were of joy.
“And we did that against other very good teams. McCracken County and Mayfield are very good teams, but it’s a situation where you have to beat the course, which is not easy to do.
“Coach (John) Saylor was talking to the girls before today about playing some of the par-4s like they were really par-5s (because CCP plays so long) and hitting the shot smart and not go to the green because if you miss the green to the right, the ball is gone.
So Murray High played conservative, and it worked. Their scores included an 89 from sophomore Macy Saylor, 90 from Emerson Vaughn and Jansyn Hays and a 110 from Catherine Kim. It was enough to defeat McCracken and Mayfield by less than 20 shots.
“We all did very well considering how difficult this course was,” said Macy Saylor. “I am proud of our team. We participated in many tournaments and we trained almost every day together. We are all friends and spend all of our time together and message each other about how difficult the course is and what we had to do.
One of the main points of attention, in addition to avoiding brutal sand bunkers around the greens, was to resist the urge to try to make long putts and settle for offsets and tap-ins relatively easy.
It was also part of Calloway’s Campbell’s game plan. Time and time again she had putts from 20 to 25 feet, but those attempts ended within two or three feet, not seven, eight or even longer distances for targeting the hole too aggressively, as frequently happens with courses with difficult pin locations.
“No, it’s not working. Now, of course, I was hoping some putts might fall, but I wasn’t upset if they ended close,” Campbell said. That philosophy now has her returning to Owensboro Country Club next week for the first round, or what’s also known as the “subsection.” Campbell has played this course for the past two seasons as the Kentucky Class 2A Section 1 Tournament Medalist.
“Yeah, twice in a month,” said Calloway head coach and Owensboro native Abby Montgomery. She is an alumnus of Daviess County High School and played on the DC golf team.
” It’s awesome. But I tell you, it is also a feeling of humility. (Campbell) really held on today and I’m really proud of Javen. Even though she had a few bad holes, she made up for it.
Campbell’s pars on the 17th and 18th holes were her strengths as she had some great approach shots a short distance from the hole. She fell behind on her birdie putts, then easily tapped for valuable pars.
Vaughn birdied at No. 18 as she was able to recover from a potentially disastrous tee shot and then, after laying down on her second shot, abandoned her approach within six feet.
Campbell was backed by Brie Lucas with a 102, Bailee Lucas with a 113 and Kaylee Tharp with a 148. None of the Lady Lakers had played CCP until Monday.
Marshall County easily won the team title and Lady Marshal player Trinity Beth won the individual title with a solid 71.
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