Hard work pays off for Hong; Stillwater claims first state championship

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By Ken MacLeod

Hong on driving range Monday.

STILLWATER  — Long after the first round of the Class 6A girls state championship had ended Monday, and after every other player had left the premises in search of food or to relax, Juliana Hong of Norman North was on the driving range at Stillwater Country Club working on her game.

And this was after she shot a first-round even-par 70 to lead the field. That dedication and hard work paid dividends in her even more impressive final round of 71 in 20-30 mph winds, giving the sophomore a three-shot victory over Oklahoma State signee Lucy Darr of Stillwater, who closed with a 3-over 73 to finish four shots behind.

Darr, however, had plenty to celebrate despite what she said was her highest round of the spring season. The powerful senior helped lift Stillwater to its first golf state championship in school history, as the Pioneers finished 11 shots ahead of defending state champion Jenks. Edmond North was another 15 shots back in third.

“I got off to a bad start, three over through my first three holes,” Darr said. “But it was pretty solid from there. I didn’t really care what my score was today as long as we won and I’m very happy about that.”

Hong had completed her round with a magnificent up-and-down after driving into the trees right on the dogleg right 18th hole. She hit her second shot through the trees to right and below the green, pitched up to 7 feet and made that for par, which she termed her favorite shot of the tournament.

Juliana Hong and father Eric.

Darr trailed by just two at that point with four holes to play including the par-5 15th which she can often reach in two. However her drive came to rest nestled against a tree, she had to take an unplayable lie and wound up with a bogey, meaning she would have to birdie the final three holes to force a playoff. She made par on all three.

Hong, who won the Oklahoma Golf Association Junior Girls Championship in 2023 at Lincoln Park West, looks like the next big star in the state girls golf ranks. She has increased her driving distance by some 40 yards in the past year and her tireless work ethic brought Norman North coach Butch Roberts to tears as he described it.

Roberts said the great save on 18 is not unusual for Hong, nothing that she has three times birdied the final hole in various events when she needed to for victories.  This was also here fourth victory of the high school spring season.

“She’s not afraid of the moment and she’s not afraid to take on a shot if it means winning the tournament,” Roberts said. “She’s not going to play it safe if it means finishing third. She’s just not scared.

“She’s so dedicated to her craft. I’ve got hard-working girls and there are a lot of girls dedicated to their craft. But she will not get outworked . . . She sets goals and is going to be there until she accomplishes it or she runs out of daylight. If her progression continues like it’s going now she’s going to be a high Division I recruit.”

Stillwater coach Angela Knott had a similar story about the work her girls have poured into this championship.

“We are so excited and so proud of these girls and how hard they’ve worked in the offseason. Came up a few shots short last year finishing fourth and the five of them have just embraced the work in the offseason to get to this point. Could not be more excited.”

“Definitely going to put the leadership on Lucy Darr’s back. She is a trooper out here, eats, lives and breathes golf and we told her last year it was going to be up to her.”

In addition to Darr, the Pioneers had two finish tied for 11th in Maggie Ruby and Nikki Pitts, the granddaughter of former OSU women’s coach and Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame member Ann Pitts Turner. Both shot 80 in the final round. Amy Reavis shot 81 and finished 16th and Jade Gosney shot 84 and finished 21st.

Jenks, led by first-year coach Audra Smalley, was without the state’s top-ranked junior in Lisa Herman who elected not to play high school golf this spring. The second-place finish was led by Sophia Leffler who placed third individually rounds of 77-74. Isabella Suttee, who opened with a 71, finished 10th after an 85, while Kate Dixon tied for 13th after rounds of 80-79.

Reagan Plank of Owasso tied Leffler for third at 151, while fourth was shared by Peyton Coburn of Bishop Kelley and Syrah Javed of Norman North at 152.

Stillwater Country Club

Par 70

Teams: 1. Stillwater 615 (Lucy Darr 144, Maggie Ruby 161, Amy Reavis 155, Nikki Pitts 155, Jade Gosney 166). 2. Jenks 626 (Sophia Lefler 141, Bella Negley 173, Brooklyn Bowman 160, Isabella Suttee 156, Kate Dixon 159) 3. Edmond North 641 (Rylee Roberts 158, Cara Cummins 162, Erika-Bryton Burkhalter 159, Natalie Lewis 163, Kate Koehn 171). 4. Norman North 668 (Syrah Javed 152, Juliana Hong 141, Charlotte Haws 192, Brooklyn Broach 200, Cesily Covey 188). 5. Edmond Memorial 676 (Meredith Colby 154, Lauren Dage 163, Alyssa Vilanueva 179, Skylar Williams 188, Lauren Hill 181) 6. Owasso 683 (Reagan Plank 151, Audrey Ellis 166, Avery Williams 182, Hallee Martin 188 Taylor Ramkaran 190). 7. Bixby 698 (Taylor Tevis 158, Addy White 169, Priya Vandra 198, Karly Schlomer 183, Reese Rasmussen 189). 8. Bishop Kelly 700 (Peyton Coburn 152, Amelia Johnson 165, Maggie Stewart 190, Ildri Weber 205, Scarlet Williams 193). 9. Broken Arrow 723 (Riley Rinner 166, Abby Chang 173, Ana Pagan 191, Jenna Moydell 208, Ava Komadina 193) 10. Choctow 748 (Katie Blasingame 183, Lainey Stevens 187, Julie Oisten 181, Faith Ake 197, Andi Foughty 208). 11. Moore 778 (Olivia Lee 188, Ava Fritts 188, Anna Fritts 203, Macey Foreman 199, Jaley Bell 220). 12. Norman 837 (Logan Jakus 190, Zoe Foster 212, Tatum Smith 193, London Johnson 242, Elise Bamborough 298).

Top individuals: 1. Juliana Hong (Norman North) 141. 2. Lucy Darr (Stillwater) 144. T3. Sophia Lefler (Jenks) 151 T3. Reagan Plank (Owasso) 151 T5. Peyton Coburn (Bishop Kelley) 152 T5. Syrah Javed (Norman North) 152 7. Meredith Colby (Edmond Memorial) 154 T8. Nikki Pitts (Stillwater) 155 T8 Amy Reavis (Stillwater) 155 10. Isabella Suttee (Jenks) 156.

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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source