The magnitude of the putt stretched far longer than the four feet of green that stood between Chantilly’s Juhee Bae and the 18th hole hole at Tuesday’s final round of the Virginia Girls State Open golf tournament.
Sink it and Bae’s four-year-long pursuit of the title would extend into a playoff. Miss it and a season that’s seen the Chargers win the Class 6A North region and state team crowns would take a bittersweet turn.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Bae said in a phone interview after the tournament was over. “I just kept telling myself, ‘You have to make this putt. You have to make this putt.’”
Bae willed the ball into the hole, then turned her focus to a one-hole playoff with Hidden Valley’s Kristin Hearp. There, Bae again knocked in a par putt to seal a come-from-behind victory with a two-day score of 4-over-par 146 at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club in Richmond.
Madison’s Shannon Brooks and Siena Ferrick earned medalist honors by finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
Bae entered Tuesday three shots off the lead following a first round that yielded just one birdie. Using improved play on her approach shots, the senior surged to the top of the leaderboard with birdies on Nos. 5, 7, 9 and 12. The pressure mounted as Bae and Hearp entered the par-5 No. 18 deadlocked. Although her tee shot sailed wide right into the rough, Bae recovered to reach the green and eventually sink what she called “the most important putt of my life.”
As Bae shifted her attention to the playoff on No. 16, she huddled with Chantilly Coach Kurt Sporkmann, who offered some tips before walking the entire hole to help keep Bae focused and relaxed.
Following a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, Bae knocked her approach within 15 feet of the pin. Though her first putt just missed the hole, Bae tapped in for par while Hearp misfired on a five-foot par putt, sealing Bae’s first individual state crown.
“This year was the year for Chantilly, and I’m so proud to be a part of it and add another honor to our great season,” said Bae, who will play at Virginia next year. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for four years and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”