CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Clarksville High School golf standout Mariah Smith returned from the second round of the the 52nd annual Tennessee Girls Junior Amateur Championships in a tie for second place earlier this week, determined to find a way to squeeze out a victory.
That goal fell short, but Smith managed to finish the three-day tournament in a tie for third place after firing a 75-71-77 for a total of 223. She was only three strokes off the winner, Aubree Jones, of Covington. Former Rossview High star and soon-to-be Middle Tennessee State freshman, Hanley Long, took second place in the 15-18-year-old division Thursday at the Foxland Harbor Golf & Country Club in Gallatin.
As Smith unwinds from this latest tournament, her attention will now focus squarely on next week. Smith qualified to participate in the U.S. Girls Junior Championships that will be held July 20-25 at the Tulsa Country Club in Oklahoma.
“I’ll be a little nervous but the one thing I want to do is live in the moment,” Smith said. “I’m really excited about it because there is so much exposure from it. You have a lot of college coaches out looking at you so the exposure for me will be great.”
And the experience Smith will gain should also prove beneficial. Entering her junior year at CHS this fall, Smith managed to pull off a three-way playoff last week in the U.S. Girls Junior Championships qualifier in Nashville. Smith parred the first playoff hole while one competitor was eliminated after a bogey putt. On the second playoff hole, Smith bogeyed but finished with the final qualifier spot after her opponent hit three balls out of bounds.
“We all had a 79 when regulation was over,” Smith said. “It was nerve racking to go back out there but I was able to keep my poise, somewhat.”
Smith had the help of former Clarksville High great and current MTSU star Samantha Gotcher. Gotcher, who has played in the U.S. Girls Junior Championships in past years, caddied for Smith during her qualifying round at the Nashville Golf and Athletic Club. It’s the second time the CHS great has caddied for Smith
“I’ve known Sam since I first started playing golf,” Smith said. “She understands the game and my game too. She’s just a great friend and someone I can lean on sometimes.”
“But I had a quadruple bogey on the second hole of my qualifying round last week and I thought it was going to be a long day,” she continued. “Sam really kept me focused and kept my head on straight. It was nice to have someone out there who you trust and know has been through all of this before. She was so valuable.”
Smith, who captured the Hank Miles Junior City Am in Clarksville last month, managed to sink some birdie putts along the way but thought she would fall short of qualifying for the event.
“But I saw everyone else’s scores and noticed they were higher than usual,” she said. “That gave me some hope.”
Now that Smith has qualified for the event next week she’ll be busy preparing to face arguably the toughest course she’s ever faced. But Smith isn’t content on just showing up and smiling, she wants to win.
“I think that’s the attitude you have to have,” she said. “Why play if you’re not out there trying to win? I know there will be a lot of great golfers from all over the country out there but I plan to play the best I can.”
NOTE: Former Rossview star Reagan Greene finished 12th (232) in the Tennessee Girls Junior Am Championship while Lady Hawks standout Caroline Caudill finished tied for 13th (235). Caudill’s sister Catherine was tied for 22nd with a 242 while Clarksville High’s Riley Cooper finished 28th (246).
George Robinson. Prep writer. 245-0747. firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Cville_Sports.