When folks started congratulating Alexis Kim as she walked off the 18th green after sinking a spectacular 20-foot putt for par, the Clarence junior figured the acknowledgement was for a well-played round. Not once did she envision they were applauding the champion.
That changed once she and her two playing partners finished tallying up the scores in front of an official.
Kim added up Depew senior Sarah Godfrey-Singleton’s card. Southwestern senior Marissa DelMonaco added up Kim’s. Once Godfrey-Singleton announced DelMonaco’s score, that's when Kim realized she had just won the biggest tournament of her life.
Kim captured the Section VI girls golf championship Wednesday at Gowanda Country Club. On a relatively clear but slightly breezy day, Kim fired a 9-over-par 83 to edge last year’s runner-up DelMonaco by two strokes. Godfrey-Singleton, who finished third at states last year, finished five shots back with an 88.
The three are among the nine golfers out of the 33-girl tournament field to advance to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championships June 4-5 at Bethpage. But Kim, who qualified for her fourth state tournament, makes the trip to Long Island this time as a champion.
“I was really shocked,” said Kim when she discovered she won the tournament. “Marissa and Sarah have always done better than me so it was unexpected of me to play that well.”
That's not just on the high school circuit. The trio has crossed paths while playing the junior circuit, with Kim usually finishing behind DelMonaco and Godfrey-Singleton, who last summer won the Erie County Amateur and also qualified for the Women’s Porter Cup.
Kim has won smaller tournaments against a field of 10-12, but nothing like Wednesday’s.
“She’s outstanding,” Clarence coach Mike Wawrzynski said. “Alexis was probably the No. 3 seed. It’s nice that Alexis won.”
Kim earned it by playing consistent golf throughout. She was one of just four golfers to shoot under 45 along a back nine that featured plenty of wicked pin placements, firing a 42. Her ability to keep it together, including putting well-enough in key moments, enabled her to pull away from her pursuers.
Kim and Godfrey-Singleton shared the lead at 5-over 41 through nine holes, but Kim went birdie, bogey, par to open the back half to take the lead for good as she led by two heading into the 13th hole. Singleton struggled to get into a groove during the back nine, as the Niagara commit went bogey or worse on five of the final six holes.
DelMonaco trailed by four through nine but started to make things interesting by acing the 145-yard Par 3 No. 11 hole to pull within two.
DelMonaco, who also will play at Niagara and qualified for states for the fifth time in her career, pulled within one shot heading into No. 18 and seemingly had an opportunity to force a playoff when she got on the green in two while Kim had to punch out of the trees on her second shot on the last hole. While DelMonaco was roughly 40 feet away from the cup, Kim delivered a nifty chip with enough back spin on it so that the ball funneled toward the hole, leaving her with a 20-footer for par. After DelMonaco’s birdie putt rolled left of the cup, Kim made no mistake with her par attempt. She sank it.
Cue the applause.
“It’s nice that the hard work and practice has paid off,” Kim said. “It feels really good because I felt like I was in a rut since the end of last summer, so it’s nice to see I can get out of it.”
Godfrey-Singleton qualified for states for the fifth time and looks to continue a trend there in which she has improved on the previous season’s finish.
Other state qualifiers include Jamestown’s Emily Isaacson (89), Clarence’s Elena Lopez (91), Williamsville East’s Samantha Gaffney (93) and Amanda Gaffney (104), Depew eighth-grader Jersey Phillips (100) and Olean’s Madison Forest (104). Clarence’s Brenna Callahan (106) is the alternate.
Kim said she hasn’t done well at states in her previous appearances, but there is a first time for a everything. She proved that Wednesday.