Buckeye Verrado senior Kaylee Benton had been here before.
Last season, she led the field heading into the final hole of the Division II state girls golf tournament, but a triple-bogey cost her the crown and forced her to settle for third for the second year in a row.
This year, the senior was determined to write a better ending.
After taking the lead on the 14th hole, Benton never looked back, finishing with three birdies and two pars on the last five holes to claim the title with a 4-under 140 at Maryvale Golf Course on Tuesday.
“I tried not to think about 18,” Benton said. “I just tried to think about what I was doing and I kept increasing my lead so after that it kind of took the pressure off so I was able to go into 18 confident.”
Benton finished Tuesday at 5-under 67, including six birdies and an eagle.
“I had a hole where I birdied from the woods and that just totally shifted the mood of the tournament,” Benton said. “And after that I just stayed in my game and I focused and ended up birdieing two more.”
Tucson Salpointe Catholic’s Haylin Harris finished second with a par 144 and Tucson Sahuaro’s Desiree Hong was third with a 2-over 146. Hong led by 1 stroke heading into Day 2.
In the team competition, Notre Dame capitalized on a big first-round lead to capture the title with a score of 629, 14 strokes ahead of runner-up Salpointe Catholic. Sahuaro was third with 646.
Notre Dame coach Shelley Dinges said Monday’s strong performance was key.
“Today was close,” Dinges said. “Yesterday was huge for us— going into today with the lead. If it hadn’t been for that, I think there was only a four-stroke difference between us today.”
Notre Dame had four players finish in the Top 10 with its best finisher, Haley Kapanicas, placing fifth.
Kapanicas, the last golfer to tee off Tuesday, was made aware of her team’s lengthy lead on the back nine and she said it gave her a boost.
“Towards the 16th hole someone told me so I was excited and really ready to win,” Kapanicas said. “After that, I birdied the 16th hole.”