They each drew motivation from different places, but Howard senior Jai Sheth and Marriotts Ridge junior Alana Alexander-Giles both captured redemption at the Howard County championship golf tournament Wednesday.
Sheth fired an even-par round of 72 at Cattail Creek to win the boys tournament by three shots, making up for this past spring when he was the runner-up by a stroke at the county championship event. Not to be outdone, Alexander-Giles posted a three-over 75 to win the girls title by a shot and erase the bad memories from less than two weeks ago at the District V Championships when she shot an 86 and tied for fifth place.
This marks the first career postseason victory for both players.
“I practiced every day since that district tournament, and I listened to my team when they kept saying that I wasn’t me that day … that’s not who I am,” said Alexander-Giles, who averaged even par over six nine-hole regular season matches this fall. “That was one bad day, and I wanted to come out today and prove that I could do better. That’s what makes today so big for me, because I really had not played well in these big matches or tournaments before.
“I’m really proud to show that I can come through under pressure.”
Alexander-Giles edged out defending county champion Helen Yeung of River Hill by one stroke.
For Sheth, the victory over River Hill’s Benjamin Siriboury and Marriotts Ridge’s Sangmin Lee — who each shot 75 — was also a breakthrough.
Siriboury had beaten Sheth by one in the spring and bested him again at the District V Championship tournament earlier this month by three shots. This time, Sheth played his back nine in one-under par to pull away.
“It was nice to finally beat him because he’s a good player and had already beaten me twice this year. It’s nice to get one back on him,” Sheth said. “But just overall, this was a goal of mine and it means a lot to get it done. It feels to good to cross this off and now start focusing on states.”
The state championship tournament is scheduled for Oct. 25-27 at the University of Maryland Golf Course. Sheth and the rest of the qualifying golfers from the county based on the results from the District V Championship tournament will compete in the two-day event, which is divided into two classifications.
The county championship tournament Wednesday featured 16 boys and 14 girls who had qualified based on regular season scores. It marks the first time that Cattail Creek, the county’s premier private course, has hosted the event.
To pick up her first postseason win, Alexander-Giles had to earn it. She started off the day trailing Yeung by two through the first four holes.
But on the fifth hole, Yeung ran into trouble as she took several shots along the cliff on the left side of the hole and ended up making a triple bogey. Her round unraveled a bit from there, with a couple more bogeys and a double bogey on No. 11, putting her as many as five shots behind with four holes to go.
Alexander-Giles said that with others faltering around her, the strategy was to avoid the big mistakes on the back nine.
“I was just coasting to be honest because I have only played this course one time before. I really didn’t take any major risks. I played for pars and if the putts went in, then hopefully I could get a couple birdies,” Alexander-Giles said.
Yeung still made things interesting at the end. With Alexander-Giles making back-to-back bogeys on hole Nos. 15 and 16, Yeung birdied the par 3 16th hole to get herself to within two shots with two to play.
She later parred the 17th and made an eagle on the 18th to play her final three holes in three-under par.
“I stopped worrying about the outcome and started focusing on just hitting each shot. I feel like the front nine I got away from that when things started not going as well for me,” Yeung said. “I kept fighting at the end, so that’s good. I just need to have that mentality the whole time. This is a good lesson for me I think so I can be better in the future.”
Even with Yeung charging, though, Alexander-Giles stuck to the game plan. She sank her biggest putt of the day for a birdie on No. 17 to give her a three-shot cushion.
“I knew that in order to get anything I had to make that putt. It wasn’t about what anyone else was doing, I just knew that was an important moment in the round,” she said.
Alexander-Giles then calmly delivered a two-putt par on the final hole to stave off Yeung’s comeback attempt.
Glenelg’s Megan Kirkpatrick finished third with a 78, and Marriotts Ridge’s Lila Becker placed fourth with an 80.
Sheth ended up winning by a few shots, but he too had to make a comeback from an early deficit.
It was Siriboury who was in control early by playing his first seven holes in one-under par, establishing a three-shot cushion on Sheth at two-over.
The momentum, however, began shifting when Sheth sandwiched a par betwee birdies on hole Nos. 8 and 10. Siriboury played that same three-hole stretch in one-over par and suddenly the two were tied.
“The tee ball on nine, coming off a birdie on the hole before, that’s when I could feel things changing. I ended up picking up a shot on three straight holes and suddenly we were tied again,” Sheth said. “After that, I didn’t have to be too aggressive and I could let him make the mistakes.”
Siriboury looks back at the same stretch as the defining moments of the round.
“I give a lot of credit to Jai for coming back because I was three up on him. But then he got those shots back very quickly,” he said. “Our momentum switched like basically at the same time … it felt like we were going in different directions. I got a couple bad breaks that led to bogeys and he just stayed strong.”
In addition to holding off Siriboury, Sheth also had to withstand a back-nine push from Lee. The Mustangs’ top finisher made four birdies in a five-hole stretch between the eighth and 12th holes to put himself ahead by one at even par.
A triple-bogey on No. 14, however, dashed his championship hopes and he was forced to settle for a tie for second place.
Sheth ended up finishing in style, making a clutch par save on the 17th and then getting up-and-down for birdie on the par 5 18th.
Centennial’s Dustin Stocksdale, who was the runner-up at the District V tournament, ended up alone in fourth place with a round of 80. His round was highlighted by birdies on his final two holes.
Girls top finishers:
1. Alana Alexander-Giles, MR, 75; 2. Helen Yeung, RH, 76; 3. Megan Kirkpatrick, G, 78; 4. Lila Becker, MR, 80; T5. Jane Mhonda, WL, 90; T5. Shreya Suresh, WL, 90; T7. Erin Jeong, MR, 91; T7. Riyana Patel, Re, 91.
Boys top finishers:
1. Jai Sheth, Ho, 72; T2. Sangmin Lee, MR, 75; T2. Benjamin Siriboury, RH, 75; 4. Dustin Stocksdale, C, 80; T5. Michael Gloth, G, 81; T5. Justin Gutierrez, Re, 81; T5. Henry Hilger, WL, 81; T5. Jonathan Moon, MR, 81; T5. Daniel Tuma, MR, 81; 10. Nate Deiuliis, RH, 83.
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