COLUMBUS — From the first tee shot to the final putt, Sarah Willis was steady – and it resulted in the biggest win of her high school career.
The Eaton High School junior played steady golf for two straight days during the Ninth Annual Girls Division II State Golf Tournament at The Ohio State University Gray Course en route to a record-setting performance in capturing a state championship on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Willis fired back-to-back 68s for a 136 total, an all-division record at the state tournament by three shots, to best the field by four shots to earn first team All-Ohio honors.
“It’s awesome,” she said moments after receiving her medal. “It’s unbelievable and all my hard work has paid off. I really wanted to do better than I did yesterday. But I’m really happy with how I played either way. It’s just awesome to have two good rounds right next to one another.”
After calmly sinking a six-foot putt on the final green, Willis was enthusiastically greeted by two of her friends, Lauren Ferguson and Izabelle Black, as she walked off the green in celebration.
The only problem was, Willis didn’t know she had won until she reached the scoring area and looked at the scoreboard. She just thought her friends were telling her “good job” on a great performance.
“I didn’t know I won until I got up to the scoring table and I was looking at all the scores. I didn’t want anyone to tell me while I was out on the course. I just wanted to play my own game and do the best I could do, no matter what everybody else was doing.” she said. “No one told me anything. They just said good job.”
And the record came as a surprise as well.
“I did not know until the second he announced in front of everybody,” she said. “I was just as shocked as everybody else. I had no clue. It was awesome.”
Willis, who earned second team All-Ohio as a freshman when she placed 10th at the state tournament, was tied with defending state champion Alexis Jones of Shelby for the lead after the first round.
“My level of maturity is a lot different,” she said of her previous trip. “I’m more experienced now. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to make pressure putts, pressure shots to win. Just my mental maturity is much better. I’m able to not get upset when I hit bad shots and not get to excited when I hit good shots.”
Eaton coach Tim Appledorn was excited for her.
“It’s been a great season. It’s completely awesome,” he said. “She was just steady all day. She stayed patient. When she hit good shots she didn’t get overly emotional and when she hit bad shots she didn’t get down. It’s just her work ethic. To stay in the moment. Just take one shot at a time because that’s what this game is is one shot at a time.”
Willis as able to win the title in front of a large hometown following.
“I just want to thank everyone who came out to support me,” she said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.