I-A GOLF: Faith Lutheran captures fourth consecutive title

BOULDER CITY — In the first round of the Division I-A girls state golf tournament at Boulder Creek Golf Club on Wednesday, Faith Lutheran’s Sydney Smith had eight bogeys and sat five shots back of Boulder City’s Lani Potter, who led the field with 2-over-par 74

Smith, the medalist at the Division I-A Southern Region tournament last week, dropped out of the top group for the second day and was forced to play from behind.

The sophomore rebounded nicely Thursday, shooting a career-low 67 to win the individual crown with a 146 and leading the Crusaders to their fourth consecutive state championship.

“I just trusted myself and trusted my abilities,” said Smith, who bested her previous low of 68, which she shot earlier this season at Siena. “I was a couple strokes back today, which definitely didn’t put a bunch of pressure on me. Playing in the second (group) doesn’t really have an effect on me. There’s more pressure playing in the first group because then you always feel like you have to be No. 1.”

Smith admitted that being in the first group played tricks on her mental game Wednesday, as she felt more pressure to live up to the No. 1 seed.

“Yesterday was a little nerve-racking, whereas today I just knew I had to shoot low,” Smith said.

That’s exactly what she did, methodically closing the gap on Potter, whose two costly bogeys on the back nine dropped her into second place at 149.

“I hit my putts well, they just didn’t fall,” Potter said. “I can’t do anything about that.”

Smith, however, took advantage of clear skies and no wind to shoot 3 under on the front nine and 2 under on the back nine, making five birdies on the day.

Potter had a two-shot lead at the turn but ran into trouble on the 11th hole. Her tee shot landed on the lefthand fringe of the fairway. Taking a conservative approach, she dribbled her second shot to the middle of the fairway before approaching the green. While she took a bogey on the par-5 hole, Smith took it in 5 and was building momentum.

Smith hit par over the next two holes, while Potter’s putt for par lipped out on the par-3 13th, and she ended up with another bogey. Smith then birdied the par-5 14th and two holes later did the same on the par-4 16th to seize control.

Faith Lutheran’s Morgan Goldstein finished third at 150, followed by Clark’s Grace Kang (152), Fernley’s Brittany Evans (155) and Clark’s Cassandra Ho (160).

The Crusaders shaved 19 strokes from their first-day score, shooting 305 Thursday to finish at 629. Clark was second at 766 and Lowry third at 773.

“I’m very pleased with our second-day effort,” Faith Lutheran coach Mark Cheney said. “That’s been my mantra all season: ‘Let’s get better, let’s find a way to improve.’ And so that’s what we did. From one through six, we had better rounds today. I’m very happy, very proud of their efforts.”