published Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Samantha Griffith, Will Zabo 5-AAA medalists

Samantha Griffith is the only girl playing golf for three of the biggest high schools on the east side of Hamilton County: Ooltewah, Central and East Hamilton.

So the Ooltewah junior often practices with members of the Owls boys' team at the Bear Trace at Harrison Bay or the Champions Club at Hampton Creek.

And she plays from the blue tees just like the guys.

"I beat all the guys except one," Griffith recalled of one nine-hole outing this season. "I shot 40. It wasn't very good."

Her practice helped produce a championship Monday. She won medalist honors in the District 5-AAA tournament at Bear Trace by shooting a 2-over-par 74, which advances her as an individual to the Region 3 tournament Thursday at the same course.

"It is sad not having any other girls on my team, because I can't win a team match," Griffith said. "I do get support from the guys and coach [Mike McCullough]."

The strength of her game is her length. Monday, Griffith had a chip of about 35 yards for her second shot on the 293-yard 15th hole.

"I kept my concentration today and didn't let my nerves get the best of me," Griffith said. "I was calm."

Walker Valley won the girls' district championship with a 169, including a 78 from Katie Bishop. Bradley Central finished second and Rhea County was third. All three teams will compete Thursday in the region event.

Senior Will Zabo led McMinn County to the boys' title by shooting an even-par 72. Four Cherokees totaled 305, clipping Walker Valley by two strokes. Cleveland advanced as well by coming in third at 340.

"I had only one bad shot, in my opinion," said Zabo, who made three birdies and three bogeys. "I didn't feel any pressure today. But the pressure will go up on Thursday.

"It will be a close finish -- I can tell you that."

McMinn coach Jerry Quirk said his team has topped Walker Valley by a combined five strokes in the four tournaments the teams have played head-to-head. He added that Cookeville, which also will be competing Thursday at Bear Trace, has nicked the Cherokees by just three shots in two previous tournaments and by six in another.

"I think Cookeville is the favorite, but I don't know too much about the rest of their district," Quirk said. "I like our chances. I like Walker Valley's chances.

"A team will have to shoot 290-something to win on Thursday."

And a win Thursday results in a chance to win a state championship. Anything other than first -- except for the two best individuals not on the winning team -- ends the season.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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