RICHMOND – As Western Hills senior golfer Megan Kinney battled for a regional title Monday afternoon, she had someone on her side who knew just what she was going through.
Kinney birdied the last three holes at Gibson Bay Golf Course, finishing with a three-over par 75 and winning the Region 7 golf tournament by one stroke over Henry Clay’s Meg Mills.
It was the same thing WHHS coach Lesa (Kerns) Hodge did in 1999 at Franklin County.
“Megan and I have always had a special relationship,” said Hodge, who also coaches FCHS. “I understand her; she reminds me of me when I was playing at her age.
“It helps that not too long ago I was right there in her shoes. My senior year I won the region by the same score and the same margin.”
Now, 13 years later, Hodge has her first regional champion as a coach.
“It’s nice to have someone who’s been there before,” Kinney said. “Lesa’s good at relating to the team. She supports me, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Kinney’s victory gives her a berth in the state tournament next week at Bowling Green Country Club. It will be her third consecutive trip to state, but her first as a regional champion.
“I felt some pressure,” Kinney said. “Golf is a sport that’s so day to day, but coming in here as a senior I really wanted to make it to state. I wanted to make it back, but I came out here with every intention of winning.”
Also advancing to state are the teams from Henry Clay and Boyle County, the top two finishers at the region. Henry Clay won the team title with a score of 324, and Boyle was runner-up at 334.
The top four individuals not on those teams also earn berths at state. In addition to Kinney, the individual qualifiers are Woodford County’s Jane Watts, who shot 80, and Anderson County’s Kaitlyn Riley and West Jessamine’s Grace Rose, who both shot 81.
Riley and Rose won their spots in a playoff with Madison Central’s Tristyn Nowlin and Dunbar’s Shelby Campbell, who also shot 81.
Western Hills, led by Kinney, shot 360, and Franklin County finished at 399. Taylor Cammack had the Lady Flyers’ low score with an 86.
Kinney, who went to a playoff last season for a berth in the state tournament, shot 39 on the front nine Monday.
She ran into a little trouble on the back side with a couple of bogeys but finished strong with three birdies to shoot even par on the last nine holes.
“I think I started getting ahead of myself, thinking about what could happen,” Kinney said, “but I told myself to buckle down. So many people were out here supporting me. I wanted to make them proud.”
She did just that, with Hodge walking with her on the last four holes.
“Lesa’s an amazing coach,” Kinney said. “I say that a lot, but when I’m nervous and getting down she says something to calm me down, to bring me back to the moment and make sure I take it one shot at a time.”
That proved important over the last three holes.
“I had no idea where I stood in relation to the rest of the field,” Kinney said, “and honestly I’m glad I didn’t know.”
“She killed it the last three holes,” Hodge said of Kinney’s finish. “That was really, really awesome.”
Both local teams had strong performances. Besides Kinney, the other WHHS scores were Peyton Silva 89, Ashley Stevens 98, Anna Hawkins 101, and Hanna Raymer 102.
Following Cammack’s 86 for Franklin County were Hannah Robertson 93, Cami Montgomery 109, and Kaycee Demaree 111.
“We had a couple of players struggle, but they all played so well,” Hodge said. “Franklin County broke 400, and that’s huge. I know for a fact that was Peyton’s personal best and Ashley Stevens’ personal best.
“They all played very well. Kaycee took 30-plus shots off her score from two weeks ago. We played here Sept. 9 and she shot in the 140s, and today she shot 111. And that’s from someone who didn’t start playing golf until two weeks before the season started.”
Cammack’s 86 tied her personal best score.
The complete team scores and the top 10 individual scores from the regional tournament are listed below.
1. Henry Clay 324, 2. Boyle Co. 334, 3. West Jessamine 356, 3. Dunbar 356, 5. Western Hills 360, 6. Anderson Co. 362, 7. Lexington Christian 372, 8. Lafayette 383, 9. Madison Central 389, 10. Sayre 391, 11. Franklin Co. 399, 12. Mercer Co. 447, 12. Tates Creek 447, 14. Madison Southern 462, 15. Berea 493, 16. Model 536.
TOP 10 INDIVIDUALS
1. Megan Kinney (Western Hills) 75, 2. Meg Mills (Henry Clay) 76, 3. Michaela Jarman (Boyle Co.) 79, 4. (tie) Allison Leigeb (Henry Clay), Jane Watts (Woodford Co.) and Rachel Pingleton (Boyle Co.) 80, 7. (tie) Grace Rose (West Jessamine), Kaitlyn Riley (Anderson Co.), Tristyn Nowlin (Madison Central) and Shelby Campbell (Dunbar) 81.