Jones repeats as girls' State Am champ
JONES REPEATS n Katherine Jones, of Jackson, successfully defended her MWGA Girls' State Amateur title at Briarwood Country Club, here watching her putt on the 10th hole during the first day of the tournament. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
June 28, 2001
Katherine Jones of Jackson edged Alexis Rather of Tupelo by a single stroke to win the Mississippi Women's Golf Association Junior Girls' Amateur Championship for 16-18 year olds Wednesday for the second straight year.
Jones, a rising sophomore at Jackson Prep, finished the 36-hole event with a 1-under par 147 after shooting a 73 in Wednesday's final round.
Rather finished at even-par 148 with Amanda Mathis of Picayune taking third place with a 151. Completing the 16-18 field were Leigh Phillips of Meridian at 159, Alison Taylor of Columbus at 168, Amanda Boykin of Meridian at 171, Shannon Hughes of Jackson at 180, and Betsy Powell of Natchez at 181.
The competition was much tougher in this year's tournament than a year ago when Jones won by 18 strokes.
Jones shot 13 strokes better than her 2000 winning total. Taylor, last year's runner-up, improved her score by 10 strokes, but finished fifth in this year's tournament. Neither Rather or Mathis played in last year's tournament.
"Amanda and Alexis are tough," Jones said. "They're tough mentally and skillfully. I've known them for a while and played a lot of tournaments with them. They're good players. I enjoy playing with them. They're so much fun to play with."
Jones trailed Rather by a stroke heading into the second round. Jones took the lead with a birdie on the second hole while Rather settled for bogey.
After they both bogeyed No. 3, Rather birdied the fourth hole to draw even as Jones took a par on the par-5.
Both parred No. 5 and a bogey by Rather on No. 6 gave Jones the lead for good as she came away with a par on the par-4.
Jones then went on a three-hole tear, birdieing 7, 8, and 9. Rather birdied 8, but parred 7 and 9 to trail by three strokes at the turn.
Both parred No. 10 and both came away with bogeys on No. 11. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 pulled Rather to within a stroke with four holes remaining as Jones suddenly struggled once she got on the green.
"I had four birdies on the front and one bogey, then I go to 10 and miss a four-footer for birdie," Jones said of a stretch where her putter left the door open for Rather to narrow her deficit. "Then I go to 11 and miss a 3 1/2 footer for par. On 12, I miss a three-footer for birdie. Then I go to 13 and miss a six-footer for birdie."
Jones appeared to be in danger of a bogey on No. 15, but chipped across the green from the fringe and nearly holed the shot as it hit the stick, leaving her with a tap in for par and a one-stroke lead.
"I hit the pin and barely missed it," Jones said of the lead-saving shot.
Rather took a bogey on the par-3 16th hole to give Jones a two-stroke advantage with two holes to go.
A bogey by Jones on No 17 after her second shot spun off the front of the green cut her lead to one heading into the final hole, but a three-foot putt on No. 18 sealed the win.
"I credit my coach Lester Cook at Lake Caroline in Madison," Jones said. "I had some lessons before I came and he helped me a lot. I couldn't have done it without Lester."
For Rather, it was a case of not getting any help from the golf gods over the final nine holes.
"I had a few bad breaks on the back side, but I'm one of these people that believe you make your own luck," Rather said. "It was just one of those days. Katherine played well. She outplayed me today. I'm happy for her. She played well enough to win this."
The two have gone head-to-head on several occasions over the years and appear destined to face each other many more times before they put away the clubs.
"I've been getting her, but it's day to day," Rather said of the budding rivalry. "It's whoever's playing well that day."
Rather needed just 30 putts in each day's round.
Mathis, a rising junior at Picayune, had three birdies to go with three bogeys and a double-bogey for a final round 76.
Phillips, a rising freshman at Lamar, had three birdies, six bogeys, and a double-bogey in her final round 79.
Michelle Coleman of Jackson shot an 84 to win the 10-12 division which played nine holes each day. Sarah Beth Fouts of Meridian took second place with a 90, while Shelby Sandifer of Florence took third place with a 100.
In the 13-15 division, Brenna Welch of Ellisville was the champion with a 98. Heather Boykin of Meridian was second with a 117.
Next year's tournament should be just as competitive as none of the 13 competitors will age out.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.