Girls State Am exciting
FIRING AWAY Lamar student Leigh Phillips tees off from the 12th hole at Briarwood Country Club Tuesday during the first day of the Girls State Amateur Golf Tournament. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
June 27, 2001
It was hard to tell who was the most excited after the first round of the Mississippi Women's Golf Association Junior Girls' Amateur Championship Tuesday at Briarwood Country Club.
In the 16-18 year old division, a dogfight for the championship looms today. Alexis Rather of Tupelo shot a 1-under par 73 to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Katherine Jones of Jackson who shot an even-par 74. Two strokes off the lead with a 1-over 75 is Amanda Mathis of Picayune.
At 5-foot-3, Rather says she might tip the scales at 100 pounds. But she played mighty big whenever she got in sight of the greens.
"I scored well today. The greens were holding real well so you could go for pins and things like that," Rather said. "I dropped a few putts in which always helps.
"Katherine is a good player. It's exciting to be playing well with both Katherine and Amanda both playing well also.
"Katherine finished real well. I knew she was getting close and I knocked it about seven feet from the hole on 18 and got lucky and rolled the putt in for birdie. It's always good to end on a good note."
Rather is a rising junior at Tupelo High School where she plays with the boys on the Golden Wave golf team.
"I'm the only girl," Rather said. "It's very competitive. The guys don't like to get beat much, but it's a lot of fun and it's a good experience for me."
Rather had two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine and added two more birdies against a single bogey on the back nine to finish 1-under.
Rather played in the event three times, but missed in 1999 and 2000 due to other commitments.
Jones, 15, is a rising sophomore at Jackson Prep. She said defending last year's title didn't add any additional pressure this time around.
"I just wanted to do my best," Jones said. "I shot 1-under on the front nine and then I went to the back and didn't play very well. I bogeyed 11 and 14 and double-bogeyed 15."
Then Jones' game began to match the afternoon heat as she scorched the final three holes in 3-under par.
"I birdied 16, 17, and 18. I hope I can play good tomorrow," Jones said. "I'm in a good position to be in."
Jones who defeated Alison Taylor of Columbus by 18 strokes for the 2000 tournament championship, advanced to the semifinals of the women's state am last week, falling to eventual champion Cissye Gallagher in the semifinals.
"I played with Cissye the last day and took her to 18 (holes)," Jones said. "She's a player."
Both Rather and Jones had 30 putts in Tuesday's round.
Mathis was in third place with a 75. She had two birdies on the front nine to make the turn at 2-under par, but promptly double bogeyed 10 and bogeyed 11. After getting two strokes back with birdies on 13 and 14, she closed with bogeys on 17 and 18 to finish 1-over. Mathis needed only 29 putts in her round.
In fourth place with a 6-over 80 was Leigh Phillips, a rising freshman at Lamar School who also competes with the boys on the Academy Overall champion Raider team.
Phillips was 1-under before three straight bogeys on 5-7. Her back nine had two birdies, two bogeys, and a triple bogey on the par-5 15th hole, a major source of woe for three of the top five golfers.
Taylor, a rising senior at Heritage Academy in Columbus, opened the day with four bogeys on the first five holes before getting a birdie on 7. A bogey at 9 left her 5-over at the turn and a 9 on the 15th hole left her at 86 after one round.
Also in the 16-18 flight are Amanda Boykin of Meridian and Betsy Powell of Natchez at 88, and Shannon Hughes of Jackson at 93.
The 10-12 and 13-15 divisions played only nine holes.
Michelle Coleman of Jackson shot a 40 to lead the 10-12 division by seven strokes over Sarah Beth Fouts of Meridian and Shelby Sandifer of Florence.
Brenna Welch of Ellisville shot a 49 to lead the 13-15 division by five strokes over Heather Boykin of Meridian.
Those helping run the tournament and having been familiar with it for many years were just as pleased as the golfers with the first day's results.
"We had seven in it last year and we've got 13 this year. I'm real thrilled about that," said tournament chairwoman Cathy McFerrin of Meridian. "They've just got to be encouraged to play. Sometimes they don't think they're good enough.
"I'd like to be able to hit it like they do. They're very flexible and they have no fear."
Players began teeing off at 8 a.m. today in the final round.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.