DIVISION I GOLF: Gator just short in medal bid

Mercedes Khumnark walked off the 18th green at Bear’s Best on Thursday and thought her shot at a state title had vanished.

But as the Green Valley junior waited for the rest of the competitors to complete their round, Gators coach Greg Murphy informed Khumnark that she was still in contention.

“I was overwhelmed with excitement that I had a chance,” Khumnark said. “I was very anxious to see what the scores were.”

In the end, Khumnark finished one stroke short, shooting 4-over-par 76 in the final round of the Division I girls state golf tournament to take third place.

Khumnark had a two-round total of 5-over 149. Katrina Prendergast of Spanish Springs birdied the first playoff hole to win the individual title after finishing in a tie at 4 over with Koko Terada of Douglas.

Prendergast entered the final round with a two-shot lead but took a quadruple bogey on the par-5 12th hole and shot 78, opening the door for Khumnark. Terada maintained a one-shot lead over Prendergast when she saved par on the par-5 17th hole despite hitting her second shot in the desert right of the fairway. Terada then three-putted for bogey on the tough 18th hole, leading to the playoff.

“It was a very emotional roller coaster,” Khumnark said. “I didn’t have a chance, then I had a chance. … I’m a little disappointed, but I personally thought I did well given that I had the opportunity to actually get first place.”

Khumnark played the first eight holes in even par until running into trouble on No. 9 for the second consecutive round. She hit her tee shot well left and eventually made double-bogey 6 for a 38 on the front nine.

Khumnark struggled over the next four holes with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13, but she settled down to birdie No. 16 before finishing with bogey on No. 18.

“Coach kept me positive and supported me, and that helped bring back my confidence,” Khumnark said. “There’s holes I could have had a lot of improvement, but I have to remember that every shot counts.”

Foothill senior Amy Ruelas shot a closing 76 and finished fourth at 9-over 153. Ruelas, the Sunrise Region champion, played the front nine in even par but struggled on the back with three bogeys and a double bogey on No. 13, though she drained a 40-foot birdie putt on 16.

“I wish I could have done better with the little mistakes I made, but it’s a great way to end it,” Ruelas said. “I just couldn’t get close enough for comfort, and I was missing a lot of greens. The back (nine) is more hilly, and I think that had a big role in it.”

Cimarron-Memorial’s Aspen Bryant, the Sunset Region champion, shot her second straight 78 and finished fifth at 156. Coronado’s Natalie Yamamoto got off to a slow start and shot 80 to finish sixth at 158.

Coronado shot 337 in the final round and was second with a two-round total of 672. Spanish Springs won the team title for the second straight year, finishing 26 strokes better than the Cougars.

“(Spanish Springs) did a better job staying away from big numbers,” Coronado coach Joe Sawaia said. “We had too many blow-up holes that cost us, but we fought hard. We were the No. 1 team from the South for the second year in a row, so we’re headed in the right direction.”

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