With a solid touch around the greens, steady approach shots and a consistent putting game, 19-year-old Stephanie Hicks of Bumpass (Louisa County) won the 54-hole Virginia State Golf Association women's stroke-play championship yesterday at Belle Haven Country Club.
Hicks's final round of 1-over 73 was the low round of the three-day event; Belle Haven's fast greens kept the field of 57 from posting sub-par numbers. Her 54-hole score of 10-over 226 was six strokes better than Arlington's Shelley Savage (78 -- 232), who finished second for the fourth time since 1993. Jameshia Levister of Fredericksburg entered the final round tied for the lead with Hicks but bogeyed two of her first three holes en route to an 81 and a third-place finish (18-over 234).
Hicks, a rising junior at Longwood University who was runner-up in the 2003 Virginia State Amateur, hit just five of 14 fairways but didn't let that inaccuracy off the tee derail her; she hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation and made two birdies on 32 putts.
"That's what saved me right there," Hicks said of her solid iron and wedge play. "[And] if I missed a green I was confident enough that I could rely on my short game to get up and down from anywhere."
Hicks made six straight pars to start the round, then birdied the 245-yard, par-4 seventh hole with a drive near the green, a short chip and a six-foot putt. Levister missed a short birdie putt on the seventh that would have kept her within two strokes of the lead, and bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 realistically ended her chances.
"I couldn't catch any breaks," said Levister, who placed third last year. "Bad bounces, bad lies. You can't catch bad lies here, and I caught bad lies."
One of those bad breaks came on the par-3 11th. Her tee shot landed on the front of the green but spun back into the water, which led to a double bogey.
The biggest turning point of the final round also came on 11. Savage missed a six-foot birdie putt that would have pulled her within two of the lead. Hicks made par, and on the next hole, the par-4 12th, Hicks put a 50-yard wedge nine feet from the pin, rolled in the birdie, and had a five-stroke lead when Savage flew the green and made bogey.