GIRLS STATE GOLF: Harris sees silver lining with 20th-place finish

It wasn’t where Ashley Harris wanted to finish. And the Bobcat junior knows she can shoot better on her home course.

But the 20th place finish she recorded at the Class 5A Girls State Golf Tournament at Elmwood Country Club on Tuesday was an improvement from the 34th place tally she brought home two seasons ago.

Harris shot an 87 on Monday to put herself in the placewinner discussioin but carded a 90 in Tuesday’s final round and couldn’t maintain her position against many in the field who showed a drastic improvement from one round to the other.

And while Harris never could figure out the greens on the 18-hole golf course that sits right beside her parent’s house, she will one day look back and know that 2014 was a successful season.

And she gets one more year to do even better.

“She’ll look at this as time passes and realize it was a pretty special year for her,” said Marshalltown coach Lucas Johnson. “Knowing where she usually shoots on this course makes it harder to take, but she proved she can play with anyone here.”

Her biggest competition next season will undoubtedly be Ankeny Centennial sophomore Karli Kerrigan, who claimed her first 5A individual title Tuesday after firing a two-round total of 151. Her second round was one shot worse than her opening round at 76 but her consistency won out against the other talented golfers.

“It means a lot to me that I was able to pull this off,” said an emotional Kerrigan. “I took it one shot a time this year and didn’t get ahead of myself. I had bad shots today, but I made sure to keep myself level and stayed calm throughout.”

Kerrigan finished ninth as a freshman last year. But a bigger workload last summer and a new set of golf clubs helped the Jaguar vault all the way to the top of the leaderboard.

“I played in more summer tournaments and I got new golf clubs, so I can thank my dad for that,” said Kerrigan. “I needed to mature a bit after last year. I just had an overall improvement in my game both mentally and physically.”

Kerrigan led by as many as seven strokes over Cedar Rapids Washington senior M.J. Kamin during the final round. The Centennial sophomore gave back two strokes at 17 with a double bogey but finished off the win with a mistake-free 18th.

Kamin ended up in a tie for second place with Waukee senior Kelsy Shay. Shay, the 5A defending champion, used a tournament-best 2-over 73 on her final round to get back into the mix but lost out on runner-up medalist honors to Kamin after a cardback.

Like Shay, Pleasant Valley’s Rachele Miller was 10 strokes better in round two. Miller entered the day in a three-way tie for 10th but wound up fourth after a final-round 77 put her at 164 for the tournament.

Waukee’s Jasmine Wyzgowski and Paige Seiser buoyed the Warriors third straight title with fifth and sixth place individual finishes, respectively. Wyzgowski carded a 166, while Seiser had a 167. Sioux City East’s Hannah Rens (169), Dowling Catholic’s Anne Gradoville (170), Dubuque Senior’s Maddie Hawkins (170) and West Des Moines Valley’s Dani Duerschmidt (171) rounded out the rest of the top 10 and the 2014 placewinners.

Of the top 10 finishers, six return next season. Miller is a junior, while Kerrigan, Seiser and Rens are sophomores and Gradoville and Hawkins are freshmen.

Harris played right around bogey golf for the first seven or eight holes.

She sent her first shot at the par 3 No. 12 about 15 feet from the cup but two-putted for par. She had a chance at birdie on the par 5 No. 13 green but instead three-putted for bogey.

The par 5 14th gave Harris another shot at a birdie but she missed her first putt to the right and then tapped in for par.

The par 4 15th gave the Bobcat junior all kinds of trouble. Her tee shot went right down the middle of the fairway, but she bladed her second shot and sent the ball well beyond the green. She chipped her third shot to the other side of the green, put her fourth shot to within 10 feet of the hole but left her fifth shot short and settled for double bogey.

She missed a short par putt on the 17th and then double bogeyed the 18th.

“She hit the ball well off the tee again and put herself in good position, but it just came down to taking a few too many shots on and around the green,” said Johnson. “She looked more confident with her putting today, but she had quite of few lip out. That’s just golf unfortunately.”

Harris thought her putter was better Tuesday. She had five three-putts and used the club three less times than she did the first day. However, she only hit six greens in regulation and found the fairway 11 out of 14 times.”

Harris failed to advance to the state meet last year after qualifying as a freshman. She has one more year to get a state meet medal and the Bobcat junior knows what needs to be done to get to that point.

“I am disappointed in how I finished because I just know I can do a lot better out here,” said Harris. “The ball just wasn’t falling, but I know what I can work on so that will help. I should be able to pull through next year with a little more hard work in the winter.”

And Johnson has no doubt that his top golfer will work hard.

“She works harder than anyone else on the team and this is the kind of place she ends up,” said Johnson. “I don’t think it’s by accident that she works the hardest and is playing here (today).”

Notebook

Shay took a similar path as her former teammate Peyton Minear, who won the individual title in 2011 only to have elbow surgery in 2012 and finish 10th last year. “I probably could have gone lower than 73 because I missed a few birdie putts, but the eagle on No. 15 helped,” said Shay. … Seiser was fourth last year as a freshman, while Kamin was sixth, Miller seventh and Duerschmidt eighth. … Harris admitted that if she wasn’t able to win the state title she wanted Kerrigan to claim the honor. “Karli is a very good person,” said Harris. “She is always very talkative and very kind to other people. We always get along and have fun together when we play. She deserved this.” … Kerrigan will always be the first individual girls golf champion from Centennial and the first champion for coach Andy Fehn. “She was dedicated to getting better and she allowed herself to be a sophomore and make a mistakes once in a while and not get down on them,” he said. “The Centennial boys put a lot of pressure on us by winning the team title and having an individual champion in the fall. For me, to see her hug her teammates and her parents and to see th realization that her hard work had paid off was pretty special.”