Sarah Vallee and her mother, Anita, embraced and smiled Thursday.
The emotional scene took place in the dining room at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club. Vallee, the Jackson Memorial High School girls standout, won the Ocean County Tournament with an 86.
“It’s amazing, amazing that I won it,” Vallee said. “I cried on the 18th hole. I was so happy.”
Toms River North won the team title with a 387.
Vallee carded nines of 47 and 39 on the Ridge and Pines courses. The courses combined for 4,898 yards.
“After the first two holes on the front nine, I wasn’t putting very well,” she said, “and I was building sand castles. I shot a 49 out here on the front nine the other day. I knew if I got a 45 today on the front nine I would be OK. After the front nine, I just said, ‘You have to do good on the back nine,’ and I did. I did not psyche myself out.”
The 39 was Vallee’s best nine of the season. She highlighted the nine with a 50-foot downhill putt for a birdie two on the second hole after playing a pitching wedge to the green.
“I wanted to get it close to the hole,” Vallee said, “and it ended up going in.”
Vallee said she hit her driver well.
“My driver is my best friend,” she said after closing her round with three pars. “I always hit my driver well. I always hit my drives straight. On the second nine, my putting wasn’t that good, but everything else was good. I killed the back nine.”
Vallee said she enjoys playing at Eagle Ridge.
“It’s a great course,” she said. “I play here a lot. The people here are nice. I love the back nine. The front is challenging. The course is challenging. The course is not too easy. It’s not too hard. It’s a very clean course. The greens are nice. The greens are fast and there are no divots. They are not that bumpy. They are well kept.”
Vallee, a junior, said she was determined to win the championship.
“It was a goal of mine to do it,” she said, “and I finally did it. I practiced a lot. I played here four times this past week. I play here about seven times per year.”
Vallee said she was wary of the competition in the 45-player field.
“There were a few girls I was worried about,” she said. “When I found out they shot 89s, I knew I won it. when I found out, I was like, ‘Wow, this is great.’ It just feels good to win it. A day like this–shooting a 39–and having a great feeling are why I like to play golf.”
Vallee said she began golfing at the age of nine with her dad, Shaun.
“He likes to play and we golfed together,” she said. “I began taking it seriously when I was a freshman on the boys team (at Jackson). They were great. They pushed me and supported me. I am good under pressure as I always played with them. I always wanted to beat them.”
Vallee has played two years of varsity field hockey at right midfielder.
“I like the conditioning of field hockey,” the 5-foot-3, 107-pounder said, “but I love golf. I would say I like golf more than field hockey.”
North rode its juniors to the title. The Mariners’ top four players were Julia Harris (89), Chandler Schalhoub (96), Jeong Song (101) and Jen Russell (101). Junior teammate Briana Larkin provided moral support.
“This team is dedicated,” North coach Christian Cranston said. “The girls practice three and four days per week. The girls focused on their short games and stayed out of trouble. They played it safe. They took each hole individually and had a lot of fun.”
The Mariners dethroned Central Regional.
“Our girls were frustrated last season,” Cranston said. “We were close last year.”
Cranston said the Mariners practice at Bey Lea.
“That course is very open,” he said. “Here, you get into trouble off the tees. This course is much more challenging in comparison to Bey Lea.”
“The number one thing was our perseverance,” Schalhoub said. “This course was tough at times. We’d forget about the previous hole, move on and play it one hole at a time. This is a real strong, close group. It’s good to be rewarded for hard work.”