|Toole Finishes Runner-up in Region Tournament|
|Highlands junior KJ Toole (left) and senior Ellie Rowland (right) celebrate after qualifying for state for the second year in a row in the 8th Region Tournament Tuesday. (Img: Twitter)|
By G. Michael Graham
The dynamic Highlands Bluebirds girls golf duo needed a good performance Tuesday to receive one more performance together donning the Blue and White.
Highlands senior Ellie Rowland and junior KJ Toole more than lived up to the preseason expectations of a return trip to state with top seven finishes in the Region 8 Tournament at Eagle Creek Country Club in Dry Ridge. Toole finished tournament runner-up by a stroke with a 74. Grant County sophomore Maddi Hudson earned medalist honors shooting 73. The third-place finishers scored 81.
"They set a goal and they achieved it," said Mike Lipscomb, Highlands Head Coach. "The greens were playing very quick so it was difficult for a lot of the girls to make up and downs because getting the ball to stop on the green was a little bit tough. But they definitely stepped up to the challenge."
Lipscomb mentioned Toole had not had the easiest time at Eagle Creek. But she had an eagle on a par four hole.
"I hit a five-iron off the tee," Toole said of the eagle. "I was left with 52 yards to the pin uphill. I took a sand wedge and just played it to the front of the green and let it role out. It hit the stick and went in. I played a practice round out there last week and I just took notes and hit a bunch of possible shots. I brought my notes along with me. It was really beneficial. I was able to see where the ball might role better and where to place it."
Rowland finished seventh overall shooting 85. Owen County's Heidi Stedam edged her for sixth by one stroke at 84.
"I'm super excited to go to state," Rowland said. "My main goal is to play a little bit better than I did last year. I want to enjoy spending time with my teammates and friends from other schools one last time."
The region champion and top seven individuals not on that team qualify for state. Grant County won the tournament shooting 331 and Highlands placed fourth with 387 behind Owen County at 342 and Pendleton County with 378.
Highlands finished third in region last year. The Bluebirds had a younger team this year outside of Toole and Rowland. But players such as eighth grader Jenna Richey and freshman Bailey Markus made improvements as the year progressed.
Toole noted there was a little breeze on the course, but nothing too bad. The Highlands boys had to deal with rain and wind winning the region tournament Monday.
Lipscomb said the goal at state is to make it past the first day unlike last year. They both shot 91s on that first day at state last year in the state tournament at the Bowling Green Country Club, which is a par 72.
"I think that experience playing in so many tournaments, they're going to be a little less uncomfortable being in a tournament atmosphere," Lipscomb said. "Just the experience of being on the course is going to help us make huge strides there."
Both players golfed in the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association Tournament at the University Club of Kentucky in Lexington. Toole owns two tournament wins this year.
"I just struggled on the first day," Toole said. "The hope this year is I'll be even more familiar with the course. This year, I have a better understanding of my game. I'm ready to go post a good score down in Bowling Green."
The girls state tournament takes place between Oct. 8 and 10.