By EDDIE SOUTHARDS
Sarah Bae walked off the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 6 in tears for the second straight year.
Only this time, they were tears of joy.
The Raleigh Athens Drive senior won the girls’ 4-A state high school golf championship in dramatic fashion. Bae sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to edge Ashley Osiecki of New Bern.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” Bae said. “It’s an accomplishment to take me forward.”
Bae has been one of the top-ranked junior players in North Carolina for several years. She has won numerous tournaments but the high school title had eluded her. She was runner-up in 2010. Last year, she led by one shot after the first round but shot 79 the second day and finished third.
That led to her crying as she left the green because she thought she had let her team down. However, Athens Drive still won the team title last year.
“I felt so bad because I thought I gave it away for my team,” she said. “But my team backed me up and we won it.”
Bae competed as an individual this year because Athens Drive did not qualify as a team.
“Our team was young and just starting out,” she said. “They are in a learning process.”
Bae shot 78 in the first round on the par-71 course and trailed the leaders by two shots. She came back with a 74 in a second round.
Osiecki, a senior, matched her 152 total by shooting 79-73. The 73 was the lowest round by anyone in the tournament played in cold, wet and windy conditions.
The par-4 18th hole at No. 6 was used for the playoff. Each golfer made routine pars the first time they played it and then returned to the tee where Osiecki hit her drive into a fairway bunker. But she hit a brilliant shot from about 150 yards out that stopped on the green 15 feet right of the pin.
Bae was in the fairway for the second straight time. From 140 yards, she stopped her second shot 20 feet to the left of the pin to set up the winning putt. Osiecki had a chance to extend the playoff but her birdie putt slid by the hole.
Bae didn’t have any teammates there to congratulate her. But when she walked off the green she was surrounded and hugged by players from Athens Drive’s conference – the Tri-9. That show of sportsmanship started the tears flowing for Bae.
Bae, who will play college golf at High Point next year, explained how she dealt with the pressure of the playoff.
“I’ve been playing golf for about five years and I have some experience with it,” she said. “The experience kind of calmed me down a little bit so that was great. A playoff is always fun.”
In fact, Bae had won a junior tournament in a playoff the previous weekend at nearby Seven Lakes Country Club.
Sophomore Meghan Symonds of Green Hope shot 76-79 to tie for third place with senior Hannah Craver of Reagan.
Ardrey Kell of Charlotte won the team title for the second time in three years. The team posted 490 (248-242) for an 11-shot margin over Pinecrest. Green Hope was third at 504 and Reagan was fourth with 508.
Green Hope won the East Regional by 11 shots the previous week and qualified five players to the states while most of the other leading teams went with three players (the best three scores count each day).
Ardrey Kell was led by Allyson Markiewicz, who shot 157 to tie for fifth place individually.
Pinecrest trailed by seven shots after the first round and could not catch Ardrey Kell.
Gabby Weiss of Pinecrest shared the individual lead after the first round with a 76. But she shot 81 the second day to tie for fifth place. The other Pinecrest scores were 83-80 by Savannah Thompson and 93-88 by the only senior, Haley Robinson.