HEPHZIBAH — A freshman led a group of new faces to a close win at the Class A girls golf championship Monday.
Anna Buchanan won low medalist honors to lead Athens Academy to a state title in only its second state tournament appearance at Pointe South Golf Club.
Buchanan shot 77 to win medalist honors by one stroke over Darlington senior Hannah Mae Deems, who was low medalist a year ago.
The difference between Buchanan and Deems proved to be the difference between a state title and a runner-up finish. Athens Academy’s Jessica Gross shot 90 as the Spartans’ No. 2 score, and Darlington’s Maggie Ashmore also shot 90 for its second counting score, and the Spartans defeated the Tigers 167 to 168.
Buchanan and Deems were paired for the 18-hole tournament.
“I felt a lot of pressure, more than ever,” Buchanan said. “Both of us played really well. It was neck-and-neck for the whole time.”
Buchanan started the round with a triple bogey after hitting out of bounds. However, she settled down to shoot 39 on the front nine, and she followed with one stroke better on the back nine.
Deems double-bogeyed the 18th hole and Buchanan made par to give the freshman the victory.
“She was under a lot of pressure as a freshman,” coach Brian Olson said. “But she was able to keep her composure. She could have faded, but she didn’t, and that says a lot.”
Landmark Christian and Hebron Christian Academy tied for third with a total of 175. Landmark’s Jordan Daniel shot 78 to tie Deems for second place. The two went to a sudden-death playoff to determine runner-up, and Daniel won with par on the second playoff hole.
Aquinas finished in 16th place with 275. Kellie Pitts led the Fighting Irish with 111, while Caroline McInerney shot 164. Morgan Earl represented Glascock County as an individual, shooting 156.
The win for the Spartans marks a change in Class A girls golf. With Buchanan returning for her sophomore year in 2013, and No. 2 Gross returning for her senior year, Athens Academy will likely defend its title as the favorite next year. For a program competing in just its second state tournament, that is rapid improvement.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Olson said. “To have a freshman, two juniors and a senior do this, it’s all about attitude. I am super impressed by the girls today.”