Sara Hurwitch has a simple yet unexciting approach on the golf course.
"Fairways and greens, that's pretty much my mentality out there," said Hurwitch, a junior at Dominion High in Sterling. "Playing steady."
It is a strategy that continues to work for Hurwitch, who shot a 1-over-par 73 on Wednesday to finish with a two-day total of 145, winning the Virginia girls' open championship at Two Rivers Country Club. Only a three-putt on the final hole, where she was protecting a two-shot lead, prevented Hurwitch, 15, from finishing the tournament at even par.
"It's not just me, it's everybody on the team that says, 'That's got to be boring, hitting green, hitting fairway and two-putting. Can you spice it up a little bit?' " Dominion Coach Sean Welsh said. "We're just teasing, obviously. I'd love to have five other golfers who could do that.
"She's the best golfer her age I've ever seen."
Christie Appleton of Great Bridge, who shot 73 on Wednesday, finished second with a 146. Jessica Hollandsworth, a freshman at Floyd County who last week won the Virginia A individual title, finished third at 150. Loudoun County's Kate Burns finished 10th with 161.
Hurwitch, a junior, had a successful season playing with the boys, winning the Virginia AA Dulles District and Region II individual titles and then finishing sixth in the AA state tournament last week.
She had finished second in this tournament as a freshman and was fourth last year and said she was not sure what to expect Wednesday, beginning the day two strokes behind first-round leader Whitney Neuhauser of Monticello. Although she was trailing, Hurwitch said, she did not want to change her approach.
"I was just really focused on playing solid and keeping it around par," Hurwitch said.
That worked just fine. With Neuhauser bogeying the first two holes, Hurwitch had moved into a tie for the lead by the time the golfers reached the third tee. Hurwitch bogeyed No. 5 but made birdie on No. 8, and her even-par 36 at the turn was good for a one-stroke lead.
While Neuhauser faded from contention on the back nine, Appleton stayed close. Hurwitch, however, hit a 7-wood to just short of the green on the par-5 16th hole, then hit a lob wedge a few feet from the hole. She made the birdie putt to take a two-stroke lead over Appleton, providing plenty of cushion for the final two holes.
"I don't try and do one of those risk-reward things," Hurwitch said. "I just try to play it safe."
With an increasing number of girls playing high school golf in Virginia, tournament organizers are discussing the possibility of splitting the next year's field into two events, one for the state's AAA schools and one for its AA and A schools. Ultimately, VHSL assistant director Joyce Sisson said, "the goal is to make [girls' golf] a separate sport."
There were 41 entrants in the first year of this tournament in 2002, 48 last year and 73 this year, and Sisson said that the number of girls playing high school golf increased from 148 in 2002-03 to 197 last year.
"I was shocked to see that there were even 70 girls that play in the state," Hurwitch said. "I think it's great that girls are really getting out there and starting to play. . . . There aren't that many [girls] that play up near me, but I enjoy playing with the boys, too."