GIRLS STATE GOLF: MHS’ Harris in medal contention

It didn’t take long for Marshalltown junior Ashley Harris to point out what went wrong Monday during the first round of the Class 5A Girls State Golf Tournament at Elmwood Country Club.

“Putting was a major struggle. I need to come up here tomorrow and just trust it,” said Harris after firing an opening-round 87. “I need to stop second-guessing myself and just go with it. I was just really hesitant today and it caused a lot of issues on the green.”

Despite the struggles on the green, Harris still finds herself in medal contention as she sits in a three-way tie for 10th.

And Harris and Marshalltown coach Lucas Johnston both know the putter will show up today on the Bobcat junior’s home course.

“She was concentrating too much on the speed of the putt and reading too much into the break,” said Johnson. “She’ll spend some time on the putting green tonight, and I expect she’ll make a lot of the ones she missed today.”

Ankeny Centennial sophomore Karli Kerrigan is the first round individual leader after firing a 4-over 75. She carded five birdies on the day and leads Cedar Rapids Washington senior MJ Kamin by five strokes heading into today’s final 18 holes.

“I didn’t get up and down and that was a big factor in my bogeys,” said Kerrigan, who finished ninth at the state meet last year as a freshman. “My putting could have been better, too. I still have tomorrow though.

“I finished strong and birdied two of my last three holes. That’s all you can ask for.”

Three of Waukee’s four scoring golfers are in the top six as the two-time defending champion Warriors lead the team race by 18 strokes after carding a 340.

The three other Central Iowa Metropolitan League teams in the field rounded out the top four. West Des Moines Valley is behind Waukee after a 358, and Dowling Catholic (362) and Johnston (370) also are in striking distance.

“It’s basically like we are winning a race and we don’t want to let up off the gas,” said Waukee coach Marty Sullivan. “We have learned from the past where we made up a 15 stroke difference and won our first title over at Otter Creek. I know what can happen.”

The Warriors have won back-to-back titles and started that streak in 2012 when they rallied from 15 strokes down on day two to beat Cedar Falls at Otter Creek in Ankeny.

The good news for Sullivan is he appears to have three of the top golfers in the field as seniors Jasmine Wyzgowski and Kelsy Shay both fired 83s to sit in a tie for third and sophomore Paige Seiser carded an 85 in a tie for fifth with Sioux City East sophomore Hannah Rens. Dowling Catholic freshman Anne Gradoville is in fourth after turning in an 84.

“In golf, you want to stay in the moment,” said Sullivan, who has been leading the golf program since 1998 and also guided the program to second in 2010 and third in 2011. “You need to have short term memory loss. We’ll continue to do that (today). They want to play better and improve their position on the leaderboard and if we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Harris used the comfort of being on her home course as an advantage. Even though the Bobcats play their home meets at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course across town, Harris’ family are members at Elmwood and their house is located just off the second hole of the 18-hole, par 71 golf course.

She struggled with the putter most of the day but did have a birdie on the par 3 No. 16 and hit 12 of 14 fairways and eight of the 18 greens in regulation.

“She hit the ball as well tee to green as I have seen her do all year,” said Johnson. “She was keeping it in play, especially off the tee, and that is so important out here. It’s Ashley’s home course so she knows where to hit it. She did everything right today tee to green.”

The birdie on the 16th gave Harris some momentum coming into today’s final round. She finished the day with a bogey and a par to give herself a chance at a medal in her second state meet appearance.

“The birdie on 16 was huge because she had a stretch of holes where she was three-putting a lot,” said Johnson. “That was a huge momentum swing.”

Johnson did not put any expectations on Harris’ performance at state. He wants her to take it one hole at a time and see where the chips land.

“She has to come out with the mindset that she is swinging it as well as she has all year,” said Johnson. “She knows that tomorrow can be better and can be a great day. If she keeps her mental focus, I expect her to have a good day. I am not focused on the medal, I just want her to play one shot at a time and go from there.”

Notebook

Harris is in the early stages of the recruiting process but told the T-R Monday that she likely will turn away interest from Central College and AIB because she wants to study engineering. … Shay won the individual title last year with a single round of 76. Seiser (80) was fourth and Kamin (81) sixth. … Waukee won last year’s title by 15 strokes over Pleasant Valley. Dowling Catholic was third, and Valley ended up fifth. … Last year’s 5A state meet was just a single round after the final round was washed out due to rain.