MANCHESTER, Tenn. — Five golfers from Montgomery County competed in the girls Class 3A State Golf Championships and all five girls finished among the top 20 players in the state.
It’s a testament to the overall strength of high school golf in the city of Clarksville.
Clarksville High and Rossview have a combined five state championships between the two programs, with Rossview serving as the defending 3A champs. But the Lady Hawks fell shot one shot short of qualifying for state this season, leaving the Lady Wildcats with a chance to capture its first state title since winning back-to-back crowns in 2011 and 2012.
After a rocky first round, Clarksville High was unable to make up ground as Houston ran away with the girls’ state title, firing a two-day 290 (2-over) for the tournament. Houston shot a 5-under during Wednesday’s final round, boosted by individual state champ Jayna Choi who blistered the 18-hole course at WillowBrook for an 8-under. That was a 12-stroke difference from her first-round 4-over Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Clarksville tried to recover from Tuesday’s 158 but struggled again Wednesday. Clarksville High took fifth overall out of the eight teams participating with a two-day 318. The Lady Wildcats were 16-over Tuesday.
Clarksville’s lone 3A boys participant, Eric Jinnette, finished even-par 72 Wednesday. He took two strokes off his score from Tuesday to finish with a 146 total. Sevier County’s Spencer Cross took the individual state title with a 134 (66-68).
“I don’t think any of us were on top of our game,” Mariah Smith said. “We didn’t put up the scores we needed or should have, but we all did our best and tried to limit the damage. In the end it didn’t work out and it’s over now.”
All three CHS girls finished inside the top 20. Mariah Smith finished 16th (78-81-159) while Breana Smith was tied for 17th (80-80-160). Riley Cooper finished 19th (81-80-161).
“I did have a good time there, but i wish we could have played better,” senior Breana Smith said “It was frustrating not having great weather and not having a great tournament. I don’t want make excuses because everyone dealt with the weather. But maybe a hole here or a a hole there for us and it might be a different story.”
Rossview’s duo of Caroline and Catherine Caudill had a better final round as the pair played as individuals.
Caroline’s three-year state tournament experienced showed as she finished tied for third-place overall with a 1-under 71 Wednesday. Her two-day total of 144 was only four strokes off Choi’s state title mark.
“I really didn’t have a any extra motivation other than just to maintain what I was doing and maybe try to better my score the second day,” Caroline Caudill said. “I tried not to concentrate on being in second or third place. I just wanted to attack the course and play consistent and well. I thought we both played well so I’m happy with our tournament.”
Catherine Caudill also fired a 1-under 71 Wednesday and tied for ninth place overall. She rebounded from a difficult first round in her first state tournament appearance. She shot an 80 Tuesday.
“It’s funny because I was kind of joking with my coach (Phil Burkhart) and he said, ‘Why don’t you shave about 10 strokes off your score?'” Catherine Caudill said. “Well, I shaved nine strokes off, but I was a little more relaxed for my final round. I’ve never been to state and I’ve never been exposed to competition like this. Even going back to region last week, I was nervous. It was my first time in that kind of environment, but it’s a lesson learned.”
It’s worth noting that had Rossview qualified as a team, both Caudill tournament scores would have equaled 295, which would have placed the Lady Hawks as state runner-up behind Houston. Rossview finished state runner-up in 2013 before returning last year to claim the state crown.
Both Caudill sisters return next year to lead the Lady Hawks, who will again be among the favorites to win a state title. But Clarksville High will also return two of its three golfers as Cooper and Mariah Smith return for their senior years.
“This is motivation,” Cooper said. “I’m glad I got a chance to compete at state finally. Now we know what to expect.”
Reach Prep writer George Robinson at 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.