The Class AAAAA state golf crown is staying within the confines of Starr’s Mill High School. The Panthers secured back-to-back state titles as both the boys and girls team were victorious on Tuesday afternoon.
The Starr’s Mill boys golf team outlasted a strong effort from rival McIntosh to win their second consecutive title. The Panthers shot a collective 598 (22-over par) to finish eight strokes over the Chiefs.
The girls team cruised to the winner’s circle by finishing 27 strokes ahead of second-place Veterans High School. The Lady Panthers shot 46-over par and continued a hot streak that propelled them all season.
Both victories capped off a strong season of athletics for Starr’s Mill. Golf head coach Burt Waller was proud of the teams’ hard work and their perseverance against all odds.
“It really is the best part of coaching to see the work ethic translate directly to success,” Waller said. “As far as the program on both sides, I think it cements their legacy in school history and sets a level of expectation for future teams.”
Along with the team titles, Luke Phillips and Liza Eubanks took home individual honors as they both shot the lowest scores of the tournament. Phillips finished an impressive 1-under in the tournament and was the only golfer to finish under par.
Phillips got hot in round one and shot a 2-under 70 to take an early lead. He made six birdies in the round, including three straight birdies on the 9th, 10th, and 11th holes. Later, he connected with solid iron play to shoot a 73 in round two and win the tournament.
“He put himself in position all tournament to score and did a great job of leading the team down the stretch,” Waller said. “His mental toughness during the round and his ability to stay even-keeled in such a high-pressure situation, where everyone is looking at you to lead the team is what impressed me the most. He deserved to be low medalist in that tournament.”
Eubanks was equally impressive at Braelinn Golf Course. She shot 7-over par and was consistent working the greens. In the tournament, Eubanks made three birdies as she recorded a 74 in round one and a 77 in the final round. She also birdied on the par-5 7th hole that spanned 433 yards.
“She came out and played like we knew she could and would play,” Waller said. “She was solid all day off the tee, and she made some longer putts to put herself in position throughout the tournament. I think she will cherish this win as the low medalist for a long time.”
The Panthers also had several players place within the top 20 of the tournament. On the girls’ side, Mary Hunter finished fourth and Ellie Camp finished seventh. Julia Schafhauser was also tied for 10th in the tournament. The boys’ team saw George Langham finish ninth in the tournament and Mason Mayfield finish 13th. The duo of Brendan Croft and Bryce Holloway finished 17th and 23rd respectively.
Waller was happy to see the strong scores from his team. He said that both teams came a long way from last season after the boys lost seven seniors and the girls were a little inexperienced.
This year, he said the boys grew up in the tournament. The team used the experience of watching seniors perform and it helped them win the state title again. Waller alluded that the ability to watch and practice as eighth graders also helped both teams get a feel of top competition.
“You cannot tell how young players will react to the pressure of a state tournament, but our boys were confident having watched the older kids last year and saw that what they did to prepare worked,” Waller said. “How we went about our business in practice worked. I am so happy for them because I see the work they all put in and how much it means to them, so to reach the pinnacle is outstanding.”
The girls also used last season to learn and improve. Waller called their stroke play dominant, and he was very happy to see them win and have several finishes in the top-10.
“Our entire girls team 1 through 10 can all play, and they are competitive in vying for a top-4 position,” Waller said. “They work extremely hard as a group and have two great coaches in Drew Garner and Steve Eubanks that help get them ready for each event.”
Starr’s Mill continued the tradition of great golf in Fayette County. Along with McIntosh, whose girls finished ninth overall, the community has been treated to some great play on the links. Waller hopes it can continue in the future.
“McIntosh played very well at the state tournament and always represents well,” Waller said. “I think it is a testament to the community and the local clubs, specifically how they support kids getting involved in the game of golf. There is tremendous parent support, but the clubs really accommodate us. Braelinn is our home course, and they do a fantastic job of helping our kids get out and play or practice.”