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A force of one: Medina's Green captures Section VI girls golf title

NORTH TONAWANDA – The Medina girls' golf team consists of Melanie Green, and that's it.

But she was a force of one throughout the season and proved that again in capturing her first Section VI girls' golf championship.

The freshman made birdie on two of the final four holes to rally past senior and defending champion Alexis Kim of Clarence on Wednesday afternoon at Tan Tara Golf Club. The tournament served as the qualifier for the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship event in two weeks.

Green fired a 4-over-par 76 to capture her first sectional title. She was one of just two golfers to break 80 in warm and sunny but windy conditions. The other was Kim, who held a one-shot lead through nine after shooting 37 and finished with a 79.

"It's an honor to do this for the school, my coaches and my team," said Green, who averaged 39 for nine holes during the season. "I'm kind of ready for states now. I just want to go out and do something well there."

The top nine finishers earned bids to the state tournament June 2-4 at Bethpage State Park's Yellow Course on Long Island. The others who qualified were Clarence's Elena Lopez (84) and Brenna Callahan (88), Williamsville East's Amanda Gaffney (88), Simone Riter (91) and Abbie Stellrecht (92), Olean's Heather Haas (93) and Depew's Jersey Phillips (93).

Section VI girls golf state qualifiers, from left: Melanie Green, Alexis Kim, Elena Lopez, Amanda Gaffney, Brenna Callahan, Simone Riter, Abbie Stellrecht, Heather Haas and Jersey Phillips. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Green is going for the first time but this wasn't her first sectional tournament.

She qualified for the boys' competition as an eighth-grader playing for the Mustangs' boys team. It's at that point Medina coach P.J. Bell realized something had to change since Green was at a disadvantage in terms of competing for a spot at states.

"So we created a girls team of one to give her a chance at competing in sectionals and to go to states," said Bell, noting girls who play on boys teams are not allowed to compete in the girls Section VI Tournament.

Medina added the sport and made an arrangement for Green to play Williamsville East's schedule. Chris Hughes volunteered to serve as the team's coach and drive Green to matches since Bell usually had boys matches to coach at the same time.

The Mustangs went 0-7 but Green went 7 for 7 – earning medalist in each match. She came into sectionals as a favorite to not just earn a spot in states but win.

Still, a big tournament like sectionals is different than a regular-season match. There's no telling how even the most seasoned competitors will react under pressure.

Green handled it well, very well. She overcame a two-shot deficit during the final four holes. She made a birdie on No. 15 and when Kim took double-bogey on that hole – in the group playing behind Green, the Mustang surged into the lead by one.

Melanie Green of Medina reacts after securing the Section VI girls golf championship at Tan Tara Wednesday. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Green gained a stroke on each of the next two holes, which included sinking a 10-foot birdie putt after she crushed a drive on No. 17. When Green closed her round with a par that lipped into the cup, she reacted with a little happy skip and a fist pump. Green's round included 31 putts.

"She's an incredibly hard worker," Bell said. "She'll spend three hours at our course in Medina. She's a very smart player. She has a killer short game."

"I knew I was two back on 15 and needed to make something happen," Green said. "I needed to come back."

That she did, leaving Kim disappointed she wasn't able to go back-to-back after pulling off a surprise last season and edging the favorites to win the title. But a double on the 10th hole knocked her off her game for a bit, culminating with the double on 15. She scored well on the other 16 holes.

The important thing for Kim: She earned a spot on the bus to states for the fifth time in her scholastic career.

"That's true," she said. "I just wish my back nine could have been better."

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