E.A. Sports Today

County champs, no worries

Cunningham survives wild 18th, wins Girls County Championship by 1; White Plains wins third straight team title

White Plains medalist Lexee Cunningham (R) watches Oxford’s Anna Bolton tee off on 16 Saturday. It was on this hole Cunningham pulled into a share of the lead on her way to the county title. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Lexee Cunningham’s approach to the game is pretty simple, really: Don’t worry, be happy.

How else can you explain the outward calm she exhibited in the face of her golf world crashing down around her on the final hole of the Calhoun County Girls Championship at Anniston Country Club Saturday?

The White Plains junior carried a two-shot lead into the final hole and only needed to avoid disaster to win the individual title, but needed six shots to bring it home.

Oxford’s Anna Bolton shot the two best rounds of her career in the county tournament. She finished second by one shot. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Shots were criss-crossing the green as she tried to get a wedge close to finish it off. Lady Wildcats coach Chris Randall was losing his fingernails with worry as it was unfolding. Yet Cunningham was soldiering on.

“I really just try not to worry,” she said. “Even if I’m playing bad I try not to think about it, and that’s what I tried to do today.”

In the end, Cunningham bounced back from a double bogey in the middle of the back nine with back-to-back birdies and nearly a third to take the lead on 17 and then survived a wild ride on the 18th to win medalist honors.

She shot a final-round 78 for a two-day total 162 and won by a stroke over Oxford’s Anna Bolton. Oxford’s Kayla Huckeba was another stroke back in third and first-round leader Hanna Dyar was another shot back in fourth.

“At the beginning of the season my whole goal was to win County,” Cunningham said. “When the season started it was a little of a rocky start. I didn’t have any intentions of winning, but I was just going to try my best. Yesterday I had an iffy round with an 84, but today I came out with a different mindset and I was just trying to hit fairway, green, two-putt.

“My coach told me right after I made the turn I was in a tie for the lead. I told him I wasn’t going to think about it and I was just going to play my game, and I parred four straight holes.”

Cunningham carried a two-shot lead into the 18th hole after rebounding from her double at 14 by going birdie-birdie-par with two near hole-outs and three putts totaling 3 1/2 feet, but made a double-bogey at the last. She avoided a playoff and won by one when Bolton bogeyed the final hole.

Cunningham’s approach shot to 18 landed right of the greenside bunker. She bladed the next shot with her 60-degree wedge into the back face of the left greenside bunker and ran that shot back across the green. Others might have panicked at that point, but she kept her cool – outwardly, at least.

“I was just trying to have a good score; I wasn’t even thinking about winning the whole thing,” she said. “That was in the complete back of my mind. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then be like crushed at the end.”

Randall, meanwhile, was losing his mind.

“I’m thinking, please, sweetheart, just finish this thing,” he said.

Oxford’s Kayla Huckeba finished third, two shots out of the lead. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

But it was a long way from over and there was no guarantee it would be when the players walked off the green. Cunningham’s fourth shot ran through the green and landed on a sprinkler head so she got a favorable drop, but ran that five feet past the hole and made it coming back for the double. Bolton, meanwhile, was on the front of the green in 2 and three-putted from 20 feet, running her birdie putt six feet past the hole and missing it coming back.

Despite coming up one shot short, Bolton played the two best rounds of her playing career, which is all of three years (81-82). She had pieces of the lead each day.

“I think I did really good,” she said. “I struggled on a couple holes, but I just tried to not let it get to me and tried to make up for it. I’m pretty pleased. I haven’t done that good in a while.”

With all four players placing in the top six, White Plains won the team title for the third year in a row. The Lady Wildcats shot 246 in the final round — counting Cunningham’s best-round-of-the-tournament 68, first-round leader Hanna Dyar’s 85 and Allison Arenth’s career-best 83 — for a two-day total 494. Oxford finished second at 538.

To view a photo gallery from the day’s round visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

At Anniston Country Club
Final scores

Team scores
White Plains 248-246—494
Oxford 262-276—538
Alexandria 311-324—635
Pleasant Valley 331-339—670
Weaver 326-348—674
Jacksonville 359-373—732

Individual scores
x-Lexee Cunningham, White Plains 84-78—162
x-Anna Bolton, Oxford 81-82—163
x-Kayla Huckeba, Oxford 81-83—164
x-Hanna Dyar, White Plains 80-85—165
x-Baylie Webb, White Plains 84-86—170
x-Allison Arenth, White Plains 87-83—170
x-Gracie Muncher, Alexandria 96-96—192
x-Abby Gattis, White Plains 99-98—197
x-Caitlin Roland, Jacksonville 106-103—209
x-Cara Burgess, Weaver 107-103—210
x-Kaylee Reaves, Oxford 100-111—211
x-Ashley Parker, Alexandria 106-113—219
Autumn Ray, Weaver 104-118—222
Marley Wright, Pleasant Valley 108-114—222
Laura Knight, Pleasant Valley 116-106—222
Madison Chastain, Alexandria 109-115—224
Gabby Fagan, Pleasant Valley 107-119—226
Callie McFall, Jacksonville 108-124—232
Gracie Davis, Pleasant Valley 116-120—236
Carmela Reese, Weaver 115-127—242
Bella Reaves, Oxford 133-116—249
Ella Floyd, Piedmont 119-146—265
Mahahla Beal, Pleasant Valley 132-142—276
Chloe Parris, Pleasant Valley 136-140—276
Ceilia Reaves, Oxford 145-134—279
Briana Behel, Saks 135-149—284
Demari Grant, Weaver 146-140—286
Makenzie Oliver, Jacksonville 145-146—291
Abby Whisenant, Pleasant Valley 156-142—298
x-All-Tournament team

County champion Lexee Cunningham chips out of a tough lie in the back of the left greenside bunker to keep the adventure going on her eventful finishing hole Saturday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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