Coach Doc Snyder has struggled to find enough players for the girls’ golf program at Lee County High School.
But he has found one gem, namely a pearl, in sophomore Siranon Shoomee, who won the 3-A state individual title at Foxfire Resort and Golf Club in late October. Shoomee goes by the nickname Muk, which means pearl in Thailand, her nationality.
Shoomee shot rounds of 76 and 73 for a 7-over total to win a tight battle over Ashley Sloup of South Brunswick (150) and Abby Parsons of Union Pines (151).
Shoomee won despite making consecutive double bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes.
“I was able to come back from it by not getting down on myself,” she said. “I tried to forget about it and keep on playing. You can’t give up in the middle of a round.”
Shoomee made three birdies, holing some long putts.
“She was very much in control of her game,” Snyder said. “Her short game is really good and her putting was absolutely great. She made a lot of par saves and a couple of long birdie putts.”
Shoomee won the 4-A regional last year to make it to the state tournament as a freshman but didn’t play well.
“I was new last year and a little bit nervous playing,” she said.
Shoomee and Sloup have become friends despite their rivalry on the golf course. They compete against each other in a lot of junior tournaments throughout the year. They posed for a picture together, their arms draped around each other, after the round.
At the 3-A East Regional this year, they finished in reverse position with Sloup beating Shoomee by four shots.
Shoomee, 16, began playing golf at age 11 at her home course, Carolina Trace in Sanford. Her swing coach is Mike Krick, the director of golf there.
“He’s a great coach,” Shoomee said. “He knows my problems and he can fix me right away.”
Snyder had another sophomore, Megan Von Canon, make the state tournament but she shot 202. His goal is to find a third player before next year so Lee County will be eligible to compete for the state title. And he has a plan.
“I’m going to start hunting softball players who don’t play a fall sport,” he said. “They have swing mechanics already. All we have to do is teach them how to hit a little ball instead of a big ball.”
Meanwhile, Sloup has committed to play golf next year at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C.
For the second straight year, she had a one-shot lead after the first round. Last year, she finished third.
“I had the goal for a really long time to win the state title,” she said. “It would have been amazing but just being here with my team was great.”
Sloup shot two rounds of 75 on the par-71 West course at Foxfire. The tournament capped a great fall for her. In September, she was selected to play in the Pebble Beach First Tee Open. The event pairs amateurs with Champions Tour players. Her pro was recent Hall of Fame inductee Fred Couples.
“He was amazing,” she said. “He’s so calm on the golf course and he taught me a lot. I definitely have struggled in the past with my mental game. He helped me so much to focus and be calm on the golf course. He taught me you’re going to hit bad shots but recovering from them is how you play golf and that defines a true player.”
South Brunswick coach Steffany Gamsby said Sloup has been an inspiration to her younger teammates.
“Ashley has grown up right in front of me,” she said. “We have a young team that has improved by leaps and bounds. They saw in Ashley what they want to become. They can never fill her shoes but, hopefully, they will continue the tradition. We won the 3-A regional for the second straight year for the first time in school history.”
Parsons, who also is a sophomore, shot 73 in the final round to match Shoomee for the best round of the state tournament, carding three birdies.
“I struck the ball well, probably the best I have this season,” she said, “and I made a lot of putts.”
Parsons is a rare left-handed female golfer.
“I draw the ball and there were a lot of dogleg right holes, so it suited me well,” she said. “I hit my driver really far, probably on average of 240 yards or more. That’s my strength, really.”
She doesn’t have to go far for instruction. The Union Pines coach is her father Tom Parsons, the director of golf at National Golf Club in Pinehurst.
A potential Parsons and Shoomee rematch in the state 3-A tournament for the next two years is an exciting possibility.
Ledford won the 3-A team title for the third straight year with Northern Guilford and West Henderson tying for second place. Cardinal Gibbons, led by Caroline O’Neil’s 83-83 (T-12) finished fourth, only nine shots out of second but 38 off of Ledford’s pace.