NORTH AUGUSTA -- Darby Sligh has always been just one of the guys in North Augusta, but the junior has erupted from that shell this fall and forced the competition to take notice.
Sligh competes as the only female golfer for the Yellow Jackets and has never looked at it as anything special. She was the sixth player on North Augusta's Region 3-AAAA championship team, but didn't compete with the team in the state championship tournament, where the Jackets finished second.
This past summer, Sligh worked with Palmetto Golf Club pro Tom Moore. She has come out this season with a much-improved game, competing against other girls. Boys compete in the spring.
"Unbelievable," Moore said. "She's made more of a mental commitment than a physical one. She's made up her mind that she wants to compete with the best girls across the state and across the nation, too."
Sligh recently went to the Class AAAA state tournament and fell by just one shot to Tiffany Catafyguitu. Sligh had a 74 at the Oak Hills golf course in Columbia, while Catafyguitu shot 73. Sligh's runner-up finish was reminiscent of her older brother David's state championship medalist victory this past spring.
While Sligh fell in the state tourney, the 16-year-old has played a major part in two other team competitions, leading her squads to victory. She played with the Augusta team in the Georgia Cup last weekend, claiming the win over teams from across the state.
"I played pretty good," Sligh said. "I won all of my points. I played pretty solid in the state tourney, too, except for my wedges. I've improved a lot in the last couple of months."
Sligh teamed up with Catafyguitu in the State Four Ball Championship at Pebble Creek in Greenville, S.C., Oct. 16-17. The two won the title, and Sligh's confidence couldn't have skyrocketed more.
The junior is finishing play today in the Players Championships in Hartsville, S.C. She rates this championship as the biggest one of the fall.
"That'll be the biggest one of all," Sligh said. "It'll be the best field in South Carolina. I've been practicing a lot on all parts of my game. I'm definitely focusing more."
Sligh will end the fall session with December tournaments in South Carolina, the Ford-Picard in Charleston and the Charles Tillman in Myrtle Beach.
While she is steadily improving on the golf course, her play on the soccer field has been a constant success. She was selected to the All-Region 3-AAAA team in her freshman and sophomore stints for the Lady Jackets.
Yet she chooses golf as her true fit. Sligh doesn't expect to be a sixth player this spring for the Jackets team, but instead hopes to be a major contributor for the defending region champs.
"Her physical skills will take her as far as she wants to go with golf," Moore added. "I have never seen any girl at her age do some of the things that she's able to do. She's got the ability to do a lot of things. She's definitely someone you'll want to keep your eye on."
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 279-6895.