Par is enough for win

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Friday's final round at the Georgia Top 60 Women's Classic featured a bevy of top finishes for local golfers at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans.

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Augusta State golf coach Laura Coble hits a drive on No. 9 during the final round at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans. Coble, who was tied for the lead after the first round, shot 76 on Friday and finished sixth in the Georgia State Golf Association tournament.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Augusta State golf coach Laura Coble hits a drive on No. 9 during the final round at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans. Coble, who was tied for the lead after the first round, shot 76 on Friday and finished sixth in the Georgia State Golf Association tournament.

But it was a collegiate player from Gainesville who came from outside the Championship Flight to steal her first-ever Georgia State Golf Association victory.

Lauren Darnell, fresh off her first season playing for Stetson, crafted an even-par 72 around 16 pars, a birdie and a bogey for a one-stroke win.

Darnell opened with 76 in Thursday's first round and was one shot off the lead.

"I didn't think I would even be close," said a soft-spoken Darnell, who had to wait anxiously alongside her father and caddie, Dennis, after finishing her round about an hour before the final group came in. "I didn't hit the ball spectacular, but it always helps your confidence when you win a tournament."

Darnell edged out Leigh Crosby, of Athens, who produced a tournament-best 71 to go all the way from a tie for 11th after 78 to a solo second place.

After the opening round, the field was bunched at the top of the leaderboard, as eight players were within a stroke of the lead. The final pairing featured a pair of familiar co-leaders, Augusta State women's golf coach Laura Coble and Kristen Bragg, a rising senior on the Lady Jaguars' squad.

The pair didn't disappoint their local supporters. Bragg finished a shot behind Crosby after consecutive rounds of 75 to tie for third place. Coble closed with 76 to finish alone in sixth place.

"I haven't been able to spend time on my game," said Coble, who won the event in 1998. "It's frustrating when you play so long at a high level and then can't put in the same time with it."

The next stop for Bragg is a trip to France, along with three of her teammates and their coach, for a team tournament in July. The solid finish provided a confidence-builder for the former Evans High School standout.

It also settled a friendly wager.

"I've finally started to be more consistent, and that makes it a lot more fun," said Bragg, who joked that it was fun playing with her coach, "but of course I wanted to beat her. And now she has to wash my car."

In the second flight, the battle for first place was so close that two rounds couldn't decide it. Kaley Branton, of Cartersville, survived four double-bogeys and a drive in the water on No. 18 to finish in a tie for first in the flight.

Taylor Ramsey, of Martinez, nearly came from behind on the back nine to take the victory, but she had to settle for the co-championship after a two-day struggle on the greens.

Playoffs are played on the course if there is a tie for the overall title.

"I missed about 10 10-footers," said Ramsey, whose sister, Ashlan, had to withdraw because of a neck injury.

"I play in a lot of tournaments that are close at the end like this, and it helps to have that experience."

Taylor, 12, and Ashlan, 11, have a full travel schedule ahead of them this summer. A mid-July trip to San Diego for the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships awaits them before they take trips to West Palm Beach, Fla., and Pinehurst, N.C., for other events.

Regan Freville, a standout at Richmond Academy who graduated in May, took second place in the third flight after rounds of 79-86, finishing four shots ahead of third-place finisher Jan Cross, of Evans.

"I struggled on the par 5s. They can be tough here," said the 18-year-old Freville, who will play golf at West Georgia College starting in the fall. "I have to learn to focus and get over my mistakes."

Debra Hatcher, of Martinez, finished second in the fourth flight after rounds of 91-84.

Reach Justin Williams at justin.williams@augustachronicle.com.

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