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Smithsburg's Lee wins Maryland state title

October 24, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

WALDORF, Md. -- Haeun Lee had a few tears in her eyes finishing her 18th hole on Thursday, knowing the Maryland girls state title was just a moment away from being official.

After signing her scorecard for a 2-over-par 75, the Smithsburg junior waited for the formal announcement that came moments later, adding her name to the list of state champions.

Down by three strokes with a first-round 81 and playing in the same group with leader Lauren Smith of Arundel, the 2006 champion, Lee came out and played the most steady golf of any to finish at 156 and post a four-stroke win over Smith, who finished with an 82 and two-day 160.

"I just thought of my family (coming off 18)," said Lee. "They have helped me so much. I think maybe in a couple of days it will sink in and I'll realize I did a good job today."

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Her steady job was the best on a day which had less wind than Wednesday's opening round, but very tough pin placements.

"I know (Lauren) won as a sophomore and everyone told me about her, but I just needed to play my game," said Lee.

After a 75-minute frost delay, Lee's group began on the back-nine 10th hole. On the 12th, a short 246-yard par 4, the day started to swing in favor of Lee.

Smith posted a double bogey with four putts, while Lee had a par -- two shots made up.

"That four-putt definitely helped take off some of the pressure and, from that point, I just wanted to make even par the rest of the way," said Lee. "I knew I could win if I just played my game."

On the par-5 13th, Lee drilled in a birdie putt from 12 feet, while Smith posted a bogey. And suddenly Lee was one shot ahead.

Lee's lead continued through to the front-nine first hole, her 10th of the day, before she ran into potential disaster.

On the 11th, Lee exploded an approach iron well over the green into a bevy of leaves and then punched it back over the green on the way to a double bogey, but lost only one shot when Smith missed a short par putt.

On the 12th, Lee pushed her tee shot short right and fought through for a good bogey to lose only one shot to Smith's par -- the lead back down to one shot.

"I was a little mad with myself after 12, but I just had to keep thinking positive," said Lee.

Lee came back and picked up the lost shots over the next three holes, capped by draining a four-foot birdie putt on the 105-yard, par-3 15th.

For good measure, Lee stiffed a 5-wood on the par-3 17th from 138 feet to the top shelf about 12 feet away and posted a par, while Smith labored short, over a bunker and a two-putt to push the gap to four shots heading to the home hole.

Lee had 37 putts in her Wednesday round but reduced that total by five shots on Thursday, due in part to a one-hour session on the outing green with Smithsburg coach Dan Neff.

"Haeun was rocking her shoulders and we worked on correcting that issue," said Neff. "This is such a great thing for our program -- to get a third state champion. It shows the growth and consistency of our program."

Lee became Smithsburg's fourth state champion.

Ashley Grier and Sejii Hirai each won in 2000, and Angela Wacker won in 1990.

In the boys race, South River's Josh Eure won with a two-day, 1-over-par 147. Smithsburg's Chris Bushey rebounded from a first-round 81 to shoot 77 and receive a medal for his eighth-place finish.

"I was less frustrated today and had a little change with the putter," said Bushey. "I'm definitely happy with the finish, but I've also got next year to think about."

Williamsport's Zach Weber finished with an 85 for a 175 total, Clear Spring's T.J. Socks had an 89 for a 180 and North Hagerstown's Becky Gossard finished with a 94 for 187.

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