On the final hole of the Virginia State Golf Association junior girls' championship at South Riding Golf Club yesterday, Hunter Ross took control of her nerves and put an exclamation point on a wild back nine.
Ross, a 14-year-old from Manakin-Sabot, birdied the 366-yard par-4 18th to capture the two-day, 36-hole tournament title. She finished with a total of 6-over-par 150 (73-77) to edge her playing partners, 16-year-old Whitney Neuhauser of Charlottesville and 17-year-old Vicki Kasza of Roanoke, by one and three shots, respectively.
"There was a lot of pressure, and I was really nervous coming into the finish because everybody was head-to-head, on the back nine, especially," said Ross, who plays out of Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot. "I just tried to play smart golf."
Ross started the day with a two-shot advantage. Though she held at least a share of the lead all day, both Kasza and Neuhauser were tied with her several times during the final nine holes. Ross helped make the finish dramatic, taking one-stroke leads with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16, then falling back into ties after bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17.
Tied with Neuhauser (75-76 -- 151) and a shot ahead of Kasza (76-77 -- 153) as she walked to the 18th tee, Ross responded with what she called her two best shots of the tournament -- a big drive and a crisp 6-iron that settled seven feet from the cup. After Neuhauser chipped to an inch and tapped in for par, Ross's tournament-clinching putt found the center of the hole.
"I've been putting pretty well all week, and I had a couple putts, quite a few actually, that just missed the edge, so I was pretty confident," said Ross, who won the tournament's 12-13 age division title last year. "It was a little uphill slider to the left. I didn't think anything other than my initial thoughts about the break."
Neuhauser, the overall runner-up, won the tournament's 16-17 division, Roanoke's Meredith Swanson, 13, won the 12-13 division with 161, and 11-year-old Shabril Brewer of Oak Hill won the 11-and-under division for the second year in a row. Brewer posted a two-day 18-hole total of 82.
Lombardi Set to Defend
Kirk Lombardi is about as ready as he can be to defend his Maryland State Golf Association Open title.
Lombardi -- who last year became the first amateur to win the championship since Mike Mitchell in 1999 -- and 142 other players will begin the 54-hole, three-day tournament on Monday at the Country Club of Woodmore in Mitchellville.
"For somebody who plays two days a week, I'm hitting it pretty good," Lombardi said.
During the tournament, the 18th hole -- usually a par 5 -- will be shortened by about 80 yards and played as a par 4, according to MSGA Executive Director Bill Smith. The course will play 6,913 yards for a par 71.
"It's a good course for me," Lombardi said. "It's a ball-striker's course. I'll try to keep it in play and make some putts. A lot of holes go left-to-right, which is good for me."
Hall of Fame Day
The Bobby Mitchell/Toyota Hall of Fame Golf Classic will be held Sunday at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg. The tournament, sponsored by Washington Area Auto Dealers, will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Last year's tournament broke the $3 million mark in funds raised since the tournament's inception in 1990. Participants will include Deacon Jones, Oscar Robertson, Sam Huff, Charley Taylor and Sonny Jurgensen.
For more information, call (703) 960-1100.