By Nolan Epstein (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If there is truly such a thing as a “clutch gene”, the entire Carl Junction girls golf squad showed that they had it on Monday at Whispering Oaks Golf Course in Marshfield.
Knowing they were battling among a formidable field in the Class 2 sectional round, the Lady Bulldogs answered the call as all five golfers improved their scores from the front-nine to finish with a collective score of 337 – clinching first place and a trip to State.
Carl Junction’s score narrowly beat out the 343 tally put up by Camdenton, a team that was squarely on the mind of head coach Corey Clingan and the Lady Bulldogs before the first swing was even put on a golf ball Monday.
The reason? Camdenton has talented senior standout Amber Wilson.
“We talked about that last night,” Clingan said. “Camdenton is a team that we know has been good because they’re obviously anchored by Amber (Wilson). We talked about working as a group and not worrying about just beating her, and I think the girls bought into that.”
Jenna Teeter, Kylie Marie Carnes and Breeley Pilgrim had strong early showings on the course – posting front-nine scores of 38, 41 and 43, respectively, to pace the team. However, if the Lady Bulldogs were going to keep up with their competition, and Camdenton in particular, they were going to have to step things up even more.
They did just that, as each girl saw at least a one-stroke improvement over the final nine holes. Madeline Coats, Carl Junction’s No. 5 who shot a 71 at the halfway mark, showed the biggest improvement by boasting a 63 on the back.
“I knew we had a deficit right off the bat and we had to figure out a way to battle back,” added Clingan. “It was just a full team effort, which is what you love to see as a coach.”
Teeter led the team with an overall score of 75, two ahead of Carnes.
Although her team couldn’t claim top honors, Camdenton’s Amber Wilson once again created most of the buzz after festivities had concluded, and for good reason.
Despite a fairly steady wind that swirled through the Ozarks in the morning and through the afternoon, Wilson handled Whispering Oaks with an unmatched level of poise and confidence – shooting a 67 to dominate the day.
Her score was an all-time personal best – giving the senior one more thing to hang her hat on in her illustrious high school career.
“That was a pretty good moment,” said Wilson in reference to sealing up her best score thus far. “I kept good composure and a good mental game, which really helped me a lot. I had a few tough holes, but overall, I did really well.”
Outside of holes three and five, which house distances of 408 yards and 414 yards, respectively, the course does not present significant intimidation in terms of length – which played perfectly into Wilson’s hands.
“This course is actually, for me, really short, which came in really handy.” she said. “I hit three greens today with my driver and that helped a lot, especially stroke-wise and around the green. I’m pretty good at chipping and putting, so that worked well hand in hand.”
The rest of the Lady Lakers, including Jennah Schell (79), Nicole Rezabek (86), Allie Crowell (111) and Emily Hunter (112), helped Camdenton to a second-place finish and a team invitation to State for the second time in school history.
“That’s a huge thing,” Wilson said of her team’s State appearance. “When we began the season, we didn’t even think about making it to districts as a team, so that was very remarkable and very awesome.”
The top 12 individual finishers on the day were also state qualifiers.
T1. Emma Oathout, Webb City, 78
T1. Kayla Kimbley, Warrensburg, 78
3. Kourtney Tucker, Central, 81
T4. Audrey Collier, Rolla, 83
T4. Kathryn Finke, Kickapoo, 83
6. Caroline Beykirch, West Plains, 85
T7. Victoria Hooker, Waynesville, 86
T7. Marliere Toothaker, Rolla, 86
T7. Alayna Haenig, Kickapoo, 86
T10. Anna Iorio, Joplin, 87
T10. Marisa Butler, West Plains, 87
T10. Hannah Scott, Willard, 87
1. Carl Junction, 337 (state qualifier)
2. Camdenton, 343 (state qualifier)
3. Ozark, 354
4. Carthage, 364
5. Glendale, 376