The individual winners in the Region 3-A/AA high school golf tournament were about as steady as the light rain that fell Tuesday afternoon at Valleybrook.
East Hamilton's Christian Silvers and Polk County's Lydia Triplett had one hole each in which their score was higher than bogey. As a result, Silvers' 7-over-par 78 and Triplett's 79 made them the medalists.
East Hamilton's 332 boys' total was five shots better than runner-up Hixson and put the Hurricanes in the state tournament for the second consecutive year. That is next Tuesday and Wednesday at Willowbrook in Manchester. Boyd-Buchanan edged Polk County 179-180 for the girls' region championship.
Silvers' only birdies were on Nos. 2 and 4, and they were sandwiched around a bogey. However, a double-bogey six on No. 6 was his closest thing to a bad hole.
He needed to shave every stroke, too. Hixson's Thad Smith finished one stroke behind.
"I hit it really solid," Silvers said. "The rain didn't bother me. It may have been a factor for other players. I strike the ball really well. I made a few putts, which was big. I didn't play great. There were a few holes where I know I should've made birdie but was happy with par."
Triplett, who like Silvers shrugged off any notion about wet conditions being a factor, made a huge par on the 13th hole. It was huge because she was able to regather quickly after making a nine on the par-4 12th that included a penalty stroke for hitting in water, another for going out of bounds, a layup shot and a three-putt.
"I'm proud of myself that I made a nine on one hole and still shot in the 70s," said Triplett, who defeated runner-up Kaitlyn Sneed, from Meigs County, by four shots. "I just tried to stay steady. The front nine I just played pretty solid. The back nine I had to get up and down a lot. I'm thankful my short game saved me."
This was Triplett's third time qualifying for the state tournament. She improved from 26th as a freshman to sixth as a junior last year.
"I'm going in trying to win it," Triplett said. "That's my ultimate goal."
Silvers shot 85-89 as a sophomore at last year's state tournament but is more concerned if the team can improve on last season's seventh-place finish.
"That's pretty much all I care about," he said.
East Hamilton coach Jeff Stetzler praised Silvers' rebounding from a rough outing in the District 6 tournament. He also said No. 5 player Ian Newman shooting an 84 was key to winning the region title.
"I'm just happy we're making another state appearance as a team," Stetzler said. "We're just going to have to be a little more consistent. We can't just expect to go up there and shoot in the mid-80s and compete. If we shoot four 80s each day, we'll be competitive."
Sequoyah's Ben Brackett, Polk County's Evan Ball and McMinn Central's Paul Houk each shot 82 and are state-qualfiers as individuals along with Hixson's Smith. Brackett won third place on the first playoff hole and Ball took fourth on the second.
Aside from Triplett and Sneed, other girls qualifying for the state tournament as individuals are Sequoyah's Olivia Raper and Polk County's Emily Massengill. They tied McMinn Central's Ryley Watson at 101, then advanced after a playoff hole.
Sequoyah's Bryce Mitchell made a hole-in-one on the 175-yard No. 16.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or email@example.com.
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