Dori Carter, 22, of Valdosta carded a 3-under-par 69 and 15-year-old Mariah Stackhouse of Riverdale added a 70, pacing Georgia to a nine-stroke victory over Alabama in the 2009 USGA Women’s State Team Championship conducted at the 6,095-yard, par-72 Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind. Georgia, which started the final round with a three-shot advantage over Hawaii and South Carolina, became the first team to win multiple Women’s State Team titles since the biennial competition began in 1995. Laura Coble, 45, of Augusta is the only Georgia member to have played on both teams. Her final-round 75 was not counted in the 3-count-2 format.
Georgia went wire-to-wire in the championship and finished with a 54-hole total of 4-over 436. Alabama, which shot a
final-round even-par 144 thanks to a championship-record-tying 67 from 2002 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Kathy Hartwiger, 43, of Birmingham, finished two strokes ahead of third-place Hawaii (447). Mississippi (450) and South Carolina (451), which received a final-round 68 from 35-year-old Dawn Woodard of Greer, rounded out the top five.
“Unbelievable,” said a teary-eyed Coble. “Those two kids … they are special. I don’t know what to say. We are drinking champagne tonight.”
Carter made sure none of Georgia’s pursuers would have a chance by shooting a 4-under 32 on Sycamore Hills’ first nine. With three consecutive birdies on 13, 14 and 15, Carter had aspirations of breaking the 18-hole scoring mark of 67 set by Brenda Corrie Kuehn of North Carolina in 1997 and matched by Hartwiger in 2009. But the former University of Mississippi standout finished with three consecutive bogeys, including back-to-back three-putts on Nos. 16 and 17, and settled for a 69 and overall medalist honors by two strokes over Woodard.
“I started getting nervous when I made that bogey,” said Carter, who planned to graduate from Ole Miss in December with a business management degree. “I think I was more nervous that I was six under par. I mean it was intense.
“When I walked off the [18th] green, I couldn’t believe I just did that (make three straight bogeys). But it’s cool that we still won. It’s been the most perfect day.”
Stackhouse looked as if she might struggle in the final round, especially following a triple-bogey 6 at the par-3 fourth hole. But the North Clayton High School sophomore played her final 14 holes in six under par. That run included four consecutive birdies from No. 7, including a chip-in birdie at the eighth and a 30-footer from the fringe at the ninth.
“This is huge,” said Stackhouse. “After Dori finished, I was standing with Laura, my dad and with [team captain] Sissi [Gann] and realized, ‘Oh my God, I have a USGA championship now.’ That’s amazing.”
Added Coble on Stackhouse’s ability to come back from the tough start: “She’s got a head on her shoulders that most 15-year-olds don’t have in those types of situations.”
Georgia opened the championship with a 1-under 143 and led South Carolina by four strokes. Despite a 9-over 153 in round two, Georgia still had a three-shot advantage. “This was my dream team,” said Georgia captain Gann.
Besides the 67 from Hartwiger, Alabama counted a 5-over 77 by 22-year-old Jordan Hardy, a last-minute eplacement for Courtney Trimble, who accepted the head women’s golf coach position at the University of Central Florida in late August.
Hawaii, which had the youngest team, counted a 1-over 73 by 23-year-old Xyra Suyetsugu and a 74 from 14-year-old Kacie Komoto, the youngest competitor in the 147-player field. Hawaii’s previous best finish had been 10th in 2007.