, Muskogee, OK

April 24, 2013

Stinging sensation: Hilldale senior upends defending state champ as Hornets win region

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— Miserable conditions like those at CobbleStone Golf Course in Tuesday’s girls Class 4A regional golf tournament don’t bother Hilldale’s Courtney Cunningham.

The senior stayed steady throughout chilly, drizzly conditions to shoot her career-low, a 3-over 75, and in doing so knocked off defending 4A champ Hannah Ward of Poteau. Cunningham not only won the medalist race but led the Lady Hornets to a 20-stroke win over the Lady Pirates and a repeat as regional champs.

“I’d better be ready for these kind of conditions since I’m going to be playing in Iowa next year,”  Cunningham said, referring to her scholarship to William Penn University. “Two years ago I broke into the 80s for the first time in this kind of weather (at a tournament at Fountainhead Golf Course).”

In a threesome including Ward, she had a three-stroke lead at the turn. Her par on the 290-yard first hole (playing off the red tee box) gave her a two-stroke edge when Ward double-bogeyed. Ward got a stroke back on 2, but pars by Cunningham at 4, 5 and 9 pick got a stroke on each.

She only had one birdie — a 3 at the 266-yard 12th — until reaching 18. But it was that par consistency that had her a stroke up at that point when Ward missed a par putt on 17 to fall one stroke back.

At 18, Cunningham went into a sloping rough to the right of the green on her second shot and from that point, chipped to within two feet of the hole. From there, she collected her second birdie and her first tourney title this year.

“I just stayed focused and steady,” Cunningham said. “My putting was good, I hit the fairways and greens in regulation every time.”

“She’s played consistent of late and I really felt like after practice yesterday that she would be in a zone,” said Oren Sikes, Hilldale’s golf coach.

Cunningham was sixth last year at state where Hilldale was third behind Poteau.

“We got them at regionals and they whipped us at state,” Sikes said. “They’ll be tough but I think we’re playing really well now.”

The Lady Hornets at 348 had Paige Snyder shooting her best-ever round at 88 and Katie Kirkhart fashioning an 89. Those two were fourth and fifth, respectively, overall. Haleigh Cox (96) and Kennedi Puckett (98) rounded out Hilldale’s scores.

Poteau shot 368. Stilwell finished third at 405, denying Wagoner (fourth at 422) a return trip to state. Checotah was fifth at 428. But qualifying for state as individuals from those schools were Ashley Fowler, who shot 93 for Checotah, and Ryann Jacobson, 96 for Wagoner.