Jefferson-Morgan's Gillian Alexander didn't come into the WPIAL girls golf championships Monday as one of the favorites after taking fourth at the Class AA Section 2 golf tournament.
A sophomore, she shot an 18-over 88 at the section tournament, five shots behind section winner Macky Fouse of Central Valley. Her score was the sixth best in relation to par when the two Class AA sections are combined, so she teed off Monday in the second-to-last grouping. While Fouse, Beaver's Abbie Helbling, Freeport's Audrey Clawson and Neshannock's Marissa Kirkwood competed with each other in the last foursome, they weren't aware that they were all literally and figuratively chasing the girl in the group in front of them.
Alexander shot a 6-over 78, two shots better than Fouse, to take the WPIAL title at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills.
"It was a great feeling," Alexander said. "I wasn't expecting it because we had tough conditions and it's a tough course. But I was really steady."
Alexander did not have one birdie on the day, but she didn't have anything worse than a bogey, either. She never once three-putted.
"My putting was very good [Monday]," Alexander said. "I didn't get into trouble much and that kept me in it with my putting."
John Curtis, Jefferson-Morgan's girls golf coach, thought Alexander would likely shoot in the low- to mid-80s Monday. He wasn't able to see much of her round because he was the designated observer for the final Class AA group, but knew that her putting must have been very good to shoot that well.
"She obviously must have putted pretty well," Curtis said. "Generally, tee to green she plays very well."
Curtis said Alexander put in the time to get to know the greens at the hilly Penn Hills course, playing practice rounds the previous Friday and Sunday. Then, when the tournament was delayed 90 minutes at the start of Monday's round due to fog, Alexander went to the driving range to work on her swing.
"Everything that she'll receive she will have earned it with her work at the driving range and putting green," Curtis said.
Alexander finished her round strong with three consecutive pars to post a 78, which made her the clubhouse leader.
Meanwhile, Fouse, considered by many observers as the tournament favorite, was trailing by one as she played her 16th hole, which was the Par-5 seventh because Class AA competitors started their rounds on the back nine.
Fouse had birdie opportunities at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes, all within 20 feet. But she couldn't capitalize and ended up three-putting the ninth to finish two shots back.
Alexander wasn't aware that if Fouse birdied the final hole, the two would be in a tie. She knew that she was the clubhouse leader, but didn't know until Fouse finished that she was the victor.
"I had no idea where everyone was," Alexander said. "I wasn't even keeping track of my own score. I just wanted to par the last hole, which I did.
"I asked my coach, who was keeping score for the last group, if any girls had lower scores than me and he said no. Since I was the clubhouse leader, that's when I found out I won. I was really happy to hear that."
Now Alexander and the other top eight finishers in Class AA will move on to the PIAA West Regional Oct. 15 at Tom's Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort in Blairsville. Alexander failed to qualify for the regional last year as a freshman after shooting a 91 at WPIALs, which was good for eighth place.hsother
First Published October 5, 2012 4:00 AM