Monday’s Region 6-5A girls golf individual title came down to a seasoned veteran and two-time state champion against a young up-and-comer. In the end, they both walked off the course winners.
St. James senior and University of South Carolina commitment Smith Knaffle and Carolina Forest eighth-grade sensation Mia Gray shot identical rounds of 1-under-par 71 to share the title of co-medalist. A playoff was not held due to time limitations.
“It would have been nice [to settle it in a playoff],” said the 13-year-old Gray, who missed a short putt on the 18th hole that would have won it. “But it’s an honor to be co-medalist with her.”
Knaffle led the three-time state champion Lady Sharks to their first region title at the Class 5A level. St. James shot a team total of 315 to defeat runner-up Carolina Forest (329) by 14 strokes.
Although the team title wasn’t in serious doubt, the individual competition was nip and tuck over the final holes. Gray went shot for shot with the state’s top golfer at River Oaks Golf Plantation.
“I have to admit, at the beginning it was a little intimidating,” said Gray, who knows Knaffle from the junior circuit. “But Smith is a really nice girl and it ended up being a pretty relaxing round of golf.”
The Sharks and Panthers can relax now that their tickets have been punched for the Class 5A Lower State Tournament on Oct. 15 at the Columbia Country Club. So can Conway (389), which finished third.
West Florence (433) edged Socastee (436) for the fourth and final qualifying spot for the Lower State Tournament.
Socastee’s Joey Kirkman shot 98 to qualify for Lower States as an individual.
St. James got a fifth-place round from freshman Adrian Anderson (76), who earned all-region honors, and teammates Amanda Meno and Katie Smith shot matching 84s to round out the Lady Sharks’ foursome.
Carolina Forest’s Alayna Fortenberry (75) finish tied for third individually, and Victoria Callahan (80) finished in sixth place to join her on the all-region team and help the Lady Panthers advance.
“We have a really strong team and we are very young,” Gray said of the Lady Panthers. “I believe if we all play as well as we are capable that we have a good chance at Lower State.”
Conway’s Lora Ledbetter (75) led the Lady Tigers to earn a share of third place. Teammate Taylor Reaves finished in seventh place with an 81.
The Class 5A Lower State Tournament will be held at the Country Club of South Carolina in Florence next Monday.