By Brad Morris
Despite not finishing as strong as she would have liked, Westfall junior Maddi Shoults nonetheless still earned second-team All-Ohio honors on Saturday in the Division II state tournament held at The Ohio State University Gray Golf Course.
“There are a lot of really good players at the state tournament and one of the advantages I feel like I have is striking the ball and getting a lot of distance off the tee,” Maddi Shoults said. “That helps with playing a longer and difficult course like what Ohio State has.”
Shoults finished sixth overall in the 72-player field, improving her standing three spots from her ninth-place showing last season.
The Westfall junior had everything going her way in the opening round on Friday. She turned in birdies on the seventh, 12th and 18th holes and pared 12 other holes to finish with an even-par round of 70. That scorecard put Shoults in second, just two shots away from leader Jami Morris of Laurel.
“I felt like I was in a good groove on Friday,” Maddi Shoults said. “I only missed two fairways and I was hitting my driver pretty well. My putting was also pretty good and that allowed me to avoid those three-putts that can drive your score up.”
“Maddi really played the Par 3’s well and put the ball in the right spots. That was big,” Westfall coach Kevin Shoults added. “She really struck the ball well and had a nice round.”
The Mustangs started on the back nine on Saturday and had one of the first tee times on a chilly morning. Shoults bogeyed her two first holes and shot a 40 on the back nine compared to the 34 she had on Friday. Shoults shot a 39 on the front nine to finish with a round of 79.
“It helped that the round was delayed an hour for frost, but it was still pretty chilly when we started and it took a little bit for it to warm up,” Maddi Shoults said. “That made it tough early.
“I wanted to shoot in the mid-70s, because I felt that would probably put me in the top five, but I struggled with my longer putting with not getting it close enough to the hole. That caused me to have some three-putts.”
Kevin Shoults evaluated the round and the experience for Maddi.
“It was a learning experience that’s going to make her better,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of attention during the season and you go from that to people posting about what you are doing on every hole and everything else. Maddi had a lot of people wishing her well on Friday night knowing that she was a couple strokes off the lead.
“It would be hard not to be a little nervous. We started on the back nine, and 10 and 11 in my view are two of the toughest holes on the course. She had a few more bogeys than the pars we were going for and that put her a few shots off where we were shooting for. She ended up shooting 79, which isn’t a bad score at all on a course like Ohio State, but I know Maddi has high expectations for herself and she probably would have liked to have a couple of shots back.”
Morris followed her two-under-par round of 68 with an even-par round of 70 on Saturday to win the individual state championship with a two-day tally of 138.
Westfall finished 12th overall with a two-round score of 814 after shooting 393 on Friday and 421 on Saturday.
Lima Central Catholic topped the 12-team field with 630, followed by Tuscarawas Valley with 683.
Emily Cook (100-91) shot 191 over the two rounds, Skyann Rogers (119-125) finished with 244 and Alexa Oney (124-126) had 250. Maddie Cook accidently stuck a different ball late in the second round and was disqualified with no official to help her on that hole.
Cook would have shaved nine strokes off her first round of 104.
“It was a great experience for the girls,” Kevin Shoults said. “We stayed a couple of nights in a hotel, we had takeout food brought in and our girls got to play a practice round and two rounds on a great golf course at Ohio State.
“Everyone had a lot of fun and it goes back to the hard work our girls put in to rebound after finishing third in our sectional to win the district championship.”
Maddi Shoults is excited to see what the future holds for the team and herself.
“I’m going to keep playing as long as the weather is okay and then we’ll all hit the simulator a lot over the winter to keep working,” she said. “I know we are all going to get better and that bigger things are ahead for us as a team.
“My goal next season is to finish in the top five and when I set a goal, I am going to keep working so I can accomplish it.”
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