Baylor girls aim for 17th state in row

Baylor girls aim for 17th state in row

October 11th, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Preps

Baylor golfers Blakesly Warren, Lauren Johnson and Teleri Hughes, from left, sit with trophies from the school's 16 state championships.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Former Baylor School girls' golf coach Ron Cofer had no idea what he started when his last three teams won state championships.

Baylor emeritus coach King Oehmig took the seeds of those three titles and built a dynasty by winning 11 more straight titles before retiring.

Current coach Gary Partrick has won two straight championships and is trying to continue a legacy that has the Lady Red Raiders 18 holes away from setting a national record of 17 consecutive girls' golf state championships.

Baylor shot a combined 5 over par Monday at Willowbrook Golf Club in Manchester and is tied with Ensworth at 149 with one round to play in the Division II-AA state tournament.

"We got in the van and I said, 'OK, girls, the assignment has been given and we have work to do tomorrow,'" Partrick said. "This has turned into a rivalry, and this is good for both teams."

Baylor junior Teleri Hughes shot a 1-over 73 and trails Alexandra Farnsworth of Ensworth by two shots. Sophomore Blakesly Warren shot 76 and is in fourth place. Lauren Johnson had the drop score of 79, which has her in sixth. Alternate Emily Javadi, a senior, will play for her today.

"It was interesting today with [Ensworth] making eagles and 40-foot putts," Partrick said. "It ought to be fun tomorrow."

If the Lady Raiders win today, they will top the run made by Xavier College Prep in Phoenix from 1980 to '95.

"Our name is already on that record, so they don't need to feel any more pressure," Partrick said. "But the girls are competitors and it would be great to have it by ourselves."

The streak began in 1995, before some of the current team members were born. The Baylor boys' team already had won four state titles, but the girls' program had none at that point.

Coffer's motto became "It's not whether you win or lose, but where you eat after the match."

"I had three championships, but if you talk to anybody, I was basically the van driver," said Cofer, who quit coaching to start a construction business. "Who could possibly have predicted what's happened?"

All Tennessee girls' golf championships are contested with the format of playing three golfers and counting the two best scores.

"If you've got two good girl golfers, you can go a very long way," Cofer said. "A stretch of that long, surely you'd think that somewhere somebody is going to have to good girl golfers unseat you."

It hasn't happened yet.

The Lady Raiders started by winning two Class AAA titles. Then they won 10 straight Division II championships before the TSSAA's financial-aid group was divided into AA and A.

"We set our standards pretty high, and the whole season was based on how we can do our best so we can win state every year," said current Alabama All-American Brooke Pancake, a four-time individual state champion at Baylor. "For them to be able to break this national record makes me speechless, especially knowing that I played a small role."

Oehmig played a big role, perhaps the biggest of all considering he turned Baylor into one of the best prep golf programs in the nation before retiring.

He did so, former players said, by promoting the program, instilling confidence in each golfer, asking for excellence from the team, easing the pressure when needed with laughter and by praying at every opportunity. He is a clergyman.

"My freshman year, I went over to Coach's car to ask for keys and I didn't know what he was doing," Catherine Hicks said. "I knocked on the window. He goes, 'Sorry, Cat, I'm in my prayer closet.'"

May Wood won three state individual titles, earned a scholarship to Vanderbilt, played on the Futures Tour and LPGA Tour and now is an assistant professional at Hillwood Country Club in Nashville. She is one of the dozens who have gone from Baylor to play golf in college at various levels -- from Division III teams to Division I title-contending squads.

"There was always a confidence because we played well during the season and we didn't want to lose at state," Wood said. "Coach Oehmig did a great job of keeping things serious but also making sure that fun was part of the game."

For Oehmig, the fun started fading fast as the team became the one team every school wanted to top no matter the tournament. So he stepped away from day-to-day duties and just pops in on occasion. He'll probably be in Manchester today.

"This might sound crazy, but I kind of got tired of winning all the time and facing the resentment of other people that came from it," Oehmig said. "The biggest surprise to me is that I've heard people always love a winner -- uh-uh.

"I was amazed at the depth and the breadth of that resentment."

It's a lesson that former players learned by experience and have taken with them to college and their professional lives.

"There is always people wanting to be the one to beat that streak," Caroline Prebul said. "It was a great experience to learn how to deal with that pressure.

"Not everybody is rooting for you."

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