Two of the states top contenders in Division II saw their state title dreams in jeopardy Monday during the first round of the girls golf state championship tournament at Maryvale Golf Course in Phoenix.
Buckeye Verrado’s Kaylee Benton and Tucson Sahuaro’s Desiree Hong were cruising along on Day 1 of the tournament in good position, when they took a wrong turn.
“(Hole) 16 was to the left and 14 was to the right,” Betnon said. “We didn’t see 14 so we just went to 16.”
After finishing the hole Benton realized the mistake and the players contacted the rules officials who slapped them with a 2-shot penalty and sent them back to 14.
“They hadn’t started the next hole,” Verrado coach Matt Currey said. “That’s the only reason they weren’t disqualified.”
Despite the setback and the 2-stroke penalty, Hong and Benton finished Day 1 atop the leaderboard. Hong shot even-par 72 and Benton finished 1-over 73, tied with Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep’s Haley Kapanicas for second place heading into the second round on Tuesday.
Hong started the day a little shaky, but three birdies on the next six holes helped her to a 1-under 35 at the turn. After the penalty on 14, Hong shot par the rest of the way to finish even. She she didn’t let the mix-up interfere with her game.
“I knew there were only four more holes left in the round so I just had to stay strong,” Hong said. “I almost forgot about it.”
For Benton, this year is about redemption. The senior was winning last year’s state tournament heading into the final hole but shot a triple bogey on 18 to finish third for the second year in a row.
“At first, it sort of defeated me,” Benton said. “But I’ve definitely used it as motivation.”
Currey said Benton’s talent and hard work are a big part of her success, but that’s not all.
“A willingness to understand the game,” he said. “I think that’s something that separates her game.”
Other golfers to watch Tuesday include Tucson Salpointe Catholic’s Haylin Harris, who is in fourth place with a 2-over 74, as well as Page’s Lindsay Wood and Sahuaro’s Taylor Hughes, who are tied for fifth place with a 3-over 75 first-round score.
Last year’s team runner-up, Notre Dame Prep, is in first place after Day 1, 10 strokes ahead of Sahuaro. Notre Dame had four golfers finish in the top eight spots Monday.
“There’s still a lot of golf left to play,” Notre Dame Prep coach Shelley Dinges said. “But for the first day, I couldn’t be prouder. They all did what they needed to do today.”