The 18th hole at Bear’s Best claimed several victims on Wednesday. Green Valley junior Mercedes Khumnark wasn’t one of them.
Khumnark was one of only two players to birdie the difficult 413-yard, par-4 18th hole and shot a 1-over-par 73 that was good enough for third place after the first round of the NIAA Division I girls state golf tournament.
The final round tees off at 10:20 a.m. Thursday at Bear’s Best.
“My coach told me to finish strong,” Khumnark said. “I concentrated on my confidence, and that helped me a lot.”
Water and sand guard the right side of the fairway on No. 18, and it was tied for the second-most difficult hole on the course during the first round, playing 1.56 strokes above par. Khumnark avoided the trouble off the tee and then nestled her second shot 10 feet from the hole before sinking the putt for her third birdie of the day.
Desert Oasis’ Ashley Malone, who shot 81, was the only other player to birdie No. 18.
Katrina Prendergast of Spanish Springs fired a 2-under 70 and leads by two strokes over Koko Terada of Douglas. Spanish Springs, the defending team champion, shot 320 and is first, ahead of Coronado (335) and Bishop Gorman (339).
“We made some big, big numbers, and you can’t do that if you want to win a state championship,” Coronado coach Joe Sawaia said. “The good news is it’s a 36-hole tournament, but we’ve got to shoot something really low to have a chance.”
Khumnark carded a double bogey on the par-4 ninth, the toughest hole in the first round, and was 2 over at the turn. But she birdied No. 10 and then parred six of her next seven holes.
“There are some improvements I can make, but overall I played OK,” Khumnark said. “I’m in a pretty good spot for (the final) round. I just have to play my best and have fun.”
Foothill senior Amy Ruelas, the Sunrise Region champion, had an up-and-down round of 77 and is fourth. Ruelas made an eagle on the par-5 eighth hole, as she cut her second shot around a tree and then drained a 50-foot putt. But Ruelas hit her drive on No. 10 into the trees and took a triple bogey on her way to a 5-over 41 on the back nine.
“After the eagle, it was a great feeling to know I was even (par),” Ruelas said. “But the (10th) hole was just a disaster, and I couldn’t make any birdie putts to make up for it, which made it worse.”
Aspen Bryant of Cimarron-Memorial, the Sunset Region champion, played the final three holes in 4 over and is tied for fifth after a 78. Coronado’s Natalie Yamamoto and Olivia Greenwald also shot 78, and Bishop Gorman’s Katie DeJesus is eighth after a 79.