, Muskogee, OK

May 1, 2013

Encore performances sought by regional champs

By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer

— For Hilldale’s Courtney Cunningham and Oktaha’s Kailey Campbell, it’s deja vu all over again.

The high school golfers won their respective regional tournaments last week and in doing so,  beat the defending state champion in their class.

To win a state championship, they’ll have to do it again beginning with today’s opening rounds.

Cunningham is in the 4A tournament at Lake Hefner South Golf Course in Oklahoma City, while Campbell is in the 2A tourney at Trosper Golf Course in Del City. The 36 hole events conclude Thursday.

Cunningham shot a 3-over par 75 and beat Poteau’s Hannah Ward for medalist honors at the 4A regional at CobbleStone Golf Course.

“I just wanted to play well, it being my senior year and my last home tournament,” Cunningham said. “I was really confident that I was going to play well.”

The William Penn University signee didn’t know how well she would play. She consistently made par and then she came to hole No. 13. It proved to be lucky for her.

At 150 yards from the flag, Cunningham’s second shot on the par-4 hole jumped from the water and bounced a couple of times before landing 10 yards from the green. She was able to chip onto the green and make a seven-foot putt for par.

“I was pretty happy because at any other time, that wouldn’t have happened,” she said.

Cunningham remembers Ward being impressed.

“After that hole, she said my putting was on fire,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham went onto win the regional by one stroke over Ward.

“I was pretty impressed with myself that day,” Cunningham said with a laugh. “I played my game and I felt good because I was parring the entire time. It felt good. I had fun out there.”

The Lady Hornet realizes Ward, who is a junior, will be even a stronger challenge this time.

“I love playing with her because she always makes me play better,” Cunningham said. “I’ve played with her in all the high school tournaments and during the summer. I’m not thinking about beating her or any other team at state. I’m just thinking about playing well again.”

Playing well at state is nothing new for Campbell, an Oklahoma City University signee. She won state as a sophomore but lost to Katie Lee Wilson of Rejoice Christian by five strokes last year.  Last week, she shot a 2-over par 74 to beat Wilson by six strokes at regionals at Fountainhead Creek Golf Course in Checotah, off Lake Eufaula.

“We’ve played against each other five times this year and I’ve beaten her four,” Campbell said. “I just thought about keeping my head on straight at regionals and not push too hard.”

That’s in competition. Practice time is where she’s pushed herself, intent on covering all the bases leading up to her last high school tournament.

“It’s not a good feeling to lose by a couple of strokes or so that could’ve made the difference,” she said, referring to last year’s loss. “That’s why I’ve been working on every aspect of game — driving, irons and my short game. I’m also hitting it hard on the range. I’ve really been bearing down these last weeks before state.”

Meeting up again with Wilson isn’t the foremost thing on her mind.

“I don’t play her. I play the course,” Campbell said. “I just play my own game and think about shooting a good round.”

The Lady Tigers finished second to Hinton last season, spoiling their bid for a fourth straight 2A championship. Redemption there is also a goal of Campbell’s.

“Our team hadn’t been playing well at the beginning of the season, but we’re finally coming together,” she said.

Prep state golf

Today, Thursday

2A at Trosper Park, Del City

3A at Duncan Golf and Tennis Club

4A at Lake Hefner South, OKC

5A at Dornick Hills, Ardmore

6A at River Oaks GClub, Edmond