Phoenix Xavier Prep and Chandler Hamilton came into this year’s Division I girls golf state tournament as the clear favorites. Hamilton had experience on its side, returning four strong seniors who were battle-tested and plenty hungry after being edged out by Xavier last year by just 4 strokes. But the young Xavier team was undeniably talented and equipped with a long tradition of excellence.
The opening round of the tournament at Aguila Municipal Golf Course in Phoenix on Friday proved just how close the team competition would be. Xavier and Hamilton finished Day 1 in a dead heat at 291. Pinnacle ended up 9 strokes behind at 300.
“They played lights out,” Xavier co-coach Tui Selvaratnam said of her team’s performance. “So (Saturday) they’ll do the same thing, and we’ll see what happens.”
Xavier has only one senior this year, but the young players had no trouble keeping up with their more-seasoned opponents. In fact, Xavier’s youngest golfer, freshman Hannah O’Sullivan, led the way. O’Sullivan birdied three of her first five holes on her way to shooting 4-under 68. She’s in first place in the individual competition, 2 strokes ahead of Hamilton’s Sake Iida who shot a 2-under 70.
O’Sullivan said she was careful not to put too much pressure on herself.
“I just try to think about my own game and not about anyone else,” she said. “I’m happy with the way I played, and I’m just going to come back and hopefully do the same thing (Saturday).”
Iida, who has committed to play at Arizona State next year, didn’t play perfectly Friday, but her ability to battle back kept her in a great position, Hamilton coach Oswaldo Perez said.
“It was kind of up and down there at the beginning,” he said. “But she came through like a champion.”
Hamilton’s Yesong Han enters Saturday’s final round in third place after a 1-under 71. Xavier’s Madison Kerley and Pinnacle’s Kaylee Knadler are tied for fourth place at even par. Tee time for the final round of the tournament is set for 7 a.m. Saturday at Aguila.