COLUMBUS — Sarah Willis turned in yet another record setting performance and it came at the best time possible.
The Eaton High School senior fired a single-round record of 3-under par 67 during the second day of the Girls Division II State Golf Tournament to rally from a 4-shot deficit to win her second straight state championship.
The tournament was held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13-14, at The Ohio State University Gray Course.
“Going into this tournament I really, really wanted to go back-to-back,” she said. “Then I was able to set my mind to it and I was able to pull it off. It’s just super exciting.”
Willis shot a 2-over par 72 on the first day and finished the tournament with a 1-under 139, tying for the second best two-day total in state tournament history. She also owns the best two-day total of 4-under 136, which she set last year.
“I didn’t have a number (in mind). I just knew I had to do my absolute best in order to win. She was ahead of my by four going in to today. I just assumed she was going to do better than she did yesterday so I knew that I was going to have to really kick it in gear.”
She had no idea where she stood until she reached the scoring tent. It was then she realized her dream of going back-to-back had become reality.
“I thought I had tied her because the guy in the scoring tent told me she had a 72 when she actually had a 74,” she said. “But I wasn’t sure until they put my name in the pink bubble.”
With her victory she becomes just the fourth girl ever to win back-to-back state golf championships.
Willis closed out her round and high school career with an exclamation point. She birdied the final three holes, including chipping in the Par-3 17th from just off the green and knocking in a 10-foot putt on 18 to seal the three shot victory.
“The first day I had trouble getting things going. I just wasn’t making putts very well,” she said. “Today, I had the same issue until the last three holes and I birdied all of them.”
Willis, who will play golf next season Penn State, finishes her high school career as a three-time All-Ohio performer. In addition to her two state titles, she placed 10th as a freshman.
“It’s awesome. I wanted to make it all four years here, but unfortunately my sophomore year I was unable to qualify,” she said. “That just shows how hard it really is to get here. That really motivated me to do well my junior and senior years.”
Eaton coach Tim Appledorn called Willis “steady as a rock” during the final round.
“It just tells you what type of player she is,” he said. “That anything can happen with her. Don’t put her behind the 8-ball because she’ll prove you wrong. That’s what she did.”
He said the second day was about not giving up.
“Anything is possible. I know how low she can go,” Appledorn said. “With all the pressure, again, it just shows you what type of player she is. What type of player Penn State is going to get.”
Appledorn called her past two seasons “surreal.”
“It’s just amazing. This soon after you really can’t think about it,” he said. “It hasn’t set in. It’s absolutely incredible. She’s just and incredible player, but off the course she’s just that much more of a better person.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH