Lady Marshals rally for third place

Bryan Edwards | Kentucky New Era

McCracken County's Jessica Stephens putts during Wednesday's round at the state girls golf tournament in Bowling Green. Stephens finished in fourth place in the tournament.

BOWLING GREEN -- When heavy fog rolled in Wednesday morning delaying the KHSAA Girls State Golf Tournament by over an hour, it gave the Marshall County Lady Marshals a little extra time to get ready.

The Lady Marshals took advantage by capturing third place, the highest ever state finish for Marshall County.

In the time delay, coach Aaron Beth told the team, "Every stroke counts today. If we all do a couple strokes better, we have a shot at third or second. It doesn't matter if it is one stroke saving par or bogey, every single stroke counts."

Savannah Howell took it to heart and shot 2-over-par 74, eight strokes better than her first round.

"Savannah stepped up and did what she had to," Beth said. "Megan Hertter was solid both days in the 70s and we needed that. Kenley (Luksic) shaved a stroke, and both Sarah (Umbarger) and Elsie Riley improved."

Tied after the first day in fourth place with Sacred Heart, the Lady Marshals shot 334 in the final round, 11 strokes better than Sacred Heart's 343. Lexington Christian captured the state crown at a total 632. South Warren was second at 660, Marshall 674 and Sacred Heart at 683.

"It was exciting," Beth said. "This is the first time we have beaten Sacred Heart after losing to them in other tournaments. And let's face it, Lexington Christian is just a really great team. But they will be graduating four of their five players this year. We are a very young team, and this is a steppingstone for the future."

While Howell's game was crucial in the final count, it was not without drama. Cruising at 1-under par on the front nine, Howell double bogeyed the 17th hole (eighth hole played since Marshall started on the back nine).

"I knew I needed to be good," Howell said. "I felt like I was playing solid, so I told myself it'll be OK."

After a bogey on the first hole, Howell chipped to 2 inches on the par-5 second hole. "I really wanted it to go in for eagle," she said. "But I'll take a tap-in birdie any day. The problem I had in the first round was my wedges. This morning I worked on them (in the delay time)."

The Lady Marshal scoring for the tournament was Howell 74-82--156, Hertter 79-78--157, Luksic 87-86--173, Umbarger 92-102--194, and Riley 96-101--197.

With only one junior on the squad, two sophomores, one freshman and one eighth grader, the Lady Marshals will be in the hunt for the state title in the foreseeable future.

"These girls want to get better, want to learn," Beth said. "Our goals are high."

The overall medalist honors went to Olivia Hensley of Boyd County with a 2-under 142. The individual qualifiers from the First Region as well as the Lady Marshals fared very well in the overall scoring.

Jessica Stephens of McCracken County was the highest individual finisher from the First Region shooting a solid 4-over 76, along with her first round 77, for a 153 earning her fourth place overall in the tournament. Stephens started out rough with a double bogey on the first hole and fought back with birdies on the 11th, 12th and 18th holes.

"Everything was working pretty good today," Stephens said. "I just stayed positive and enjoyed my last high school tournament. My goal was to get a top 10 finish."

Howell's second-round 74 earned her a tie for eighth and a trip to the podium for a medal. Hertter missed the chance to join Howell by just one stroke, coming in a 157 and a tie for 12th.

Also in the logjam for 12th place was Cathryn Brown, freshman standout at Lyon County, shooting a 4-over 76 for a two-round total of 157. Brown had five bogeys and one double but fought back with birdies on holes 3, 10 and 17.

Tied for 24th was Murray's Mary Browder Howell, who scored two strokes worse than her first round (80-82--168) with only one double-bogey hole. "I couldn't putt for anything," she said. "I made several three-putts today."

Ellie West from Graves County also could not get putts to drop and ballooned to an 84 on the second round after shooting 79 on the first day for a total 162 and a solo 27th-place finish.

"This was my first ever state tournament," said West, a sophomore. "It was a lot more nerve-racking than I expected. I couldn't stay calm today. Hitting is my strength, putting my weakness, so I have to work on my short game. But I had fun and all the girls from the region are really close."

Lauren Gilchrist from Crittenden County fired a 10-over 82 with two bad double-bogey holes, but bested her Tuesday score of 83 for 32nd place with a total score of 165.

St. Mary's Margaret Butts shot 88, her worst score ever in any tournament play, and finished her high school career in 54th place in the state tournament.

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