HIGH SCHOOL GOLF: Wink’s Sarah Turnbo, Van Horn’s Lezlie Jones advance to state championship tournament

Wink High’s Sarah Turnbo watches her putt on the first hole during the second round of the 1-2A Girls Regional Golf Championships Tuesday morning at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links.

Photo byMark Sterkel

Odessa American

By Justin Lee

Used with permission from Odessa American

As Wink junior Sarah Turnbo looked down the long, par-5 No. 8 on Tuesday, she felt a lifting breeze start to roll over the course at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links.

On the second and final day of the Region I-2A championships, with trips to the state tournament still up for grabs, Turnbo was in the midst of fighting for a spot in Austin.

And as she got set to tee off on the daunting No. 8, that’s when she felt the wind start to pick up — the same wind that gusted up to around 30 miles per hour during the latter course of play Tuesday, plaguing golfers through the afternoon.

The stiff wind pushed in from the west — the same direction Turnbo was facing there on No. 8.

But that’s when Turnbo gritted through, knifing her ball through that stiff gust and holing a birdie on the par 5 en route to firing a two-day 165 and punching her ticket to the state championship tournament.

“I’m shocked, and so excited,” Turnbo said, searching for words outside the Ratliff Ranch clubhouse just after the tournament’s final scores were posted and her berth in Austin was cinched.

Turnbo shot an 83 on Tuesday to go along with a first-round 82 on Monday. She finished fifth in the tournament’s individual standings, and qualified for the state tournament as one of the top three finishers in the individual event not on an advancing team.

She’ll make her second appearance at the state championships on May 15-16 in Austin — after earning it through her clutch play through the windy conditions at Ratliff Ranch on Tuesday.

“The conditions were tough, but I survived,” Turnbo said. “It started picking up on No. 8. … I played the wind as much as I could. A couple of shots got me, but I played it pretty well today.”

After sinking that big birdie on No. 8, she battled through the steady wind all down the back 9 to card that 83, which punched her ticket to the state championships without much room to spare.

Seagraves’ Hannah Spiller shot a 166 to finish just one stroke behind Turnbo and one stroke out of positioning to take that third and final individual-qualifier spot.

“She played well,” Wink head golf coach Charlie Stodghill said of Turnbo. “She hung in there.”

Entering Tuesday’s second round, Turnbo sat tied for sixth on the individual leaderboard. No one in the top 10 shot any higher than an 83.

“I was very nervous, especially because I knew it was going to be so close,” Turnbo said.

But, Stodghill said, Turnbo handled those nerves and rose to the occasion.

“There were probably 10 girls within striking distance,” Stodghill said. “It could’ve gone in any direction.

“She hung in there. She played well. She didn’t give up.”

In the end, Turnbo’s play was enough to advance her on.

“She knew, and we knew, that she had an outside chance,” Stodghill said. “She also knew that she also had to shoot around 80 to be there.

“We basically just talked about it like we do every tournament: Go out there and play and have fun and just take one shot at a time.”

Turnbo played in Class 1A state championships last season, as part of a five-golfer Wink team that advanced to Austin.

Since that first experience playing on the big stage, Turnbo said she worked hard to make it back.

“I just worked very hard this summer, and have come a long way, and I’d have just hated to see all the hard work not pay off in the end,” Turnbo said.

“I told myself I could do it. ‘I have the potential.’”

Tuesday, she proved it.

\VAN HORN’S JONES ADVANCES: With wind whipping at her hair as she stood outside on the clubhouse pavilion, Lezlie Jones started to choke up Tuesday afternoon, as she thought about what she had just accomplished.

The Van Horn senior golfer had just earned the chance to cap her senior season with a trip to the state tournament.

“It feels great. It feels phenomenal,” she said, holding back tears.

“I think I need to thank God most of all,” she let out — before ducking her head and reaching to wipe her eyes.

Then she leaned over to embrace Erica Urias, her head coach and mother, to celebrate winning one last opportunity to share a special experience together in high school golf.

Jones shot a second-day 81 Tuesday to cap a two-round 163 at the Region I-2A championships at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links, and earn herself a trip to the state tournament in May as one of the region’s three individual qualifiers.

She finished in fourth in the tournament’s individual standings, and advanced alongside Wink’s Turnbo and tournament medalist winner Taylor Tomlinson of Christoval, who were the region’s top three finishers not on the three advancing teams.

Forsan, Wellington and Memphis took the top three spots in the team standings.

Jones sat in a tie for sixth place in the individual standings after firing a first-round 82 on Monday.

She entered Tuesday’s round in a tight race among golfers vying for those tickets to Austin, but only two other players in the field shot better than her 81 in windy conditions on Tuesday.

“With Lezlie, and the way she carries herself and the attitude that she has, there’s always that chance,” Urias said. “She never, ever thinks, ‘I’m out of it.’ She always has that attitude that every stroke counts and, ‘I’m going to fight for every single stroke, every single hole.’”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Jones, though, who Urias said struggled on the green through the second round, but capitalized in other aspects of her game to put together a strong round.

“There were a lot of times that Lezlie was faced with adversity,” Urias said of Jones’ play Tuesday. “Her putting was a little bit off today. But she stuck to her guns and she was really, really confident in everything else that she did. She was able to tap into all that, and make up for her putting that was off here and there.”

Jones saw the same from herself on the course.

“There were times where I was like, ‘Man, you really need this putt.’ And then sometimes I wouldn’t get it,” Jones said. “I didn’t know how everybody else was playing out, so I knew I had to keep pushing.”

Winds whipping across the course from the west troubled golfers throughout the afternoon Tuesday, but Jones adapted, saying she is used to playing in those conditions on the plains of Far West Texas in Van Horn.

“When the wind started picking up — We play in wind most of our practices, so I was like, ‘Alright, I know how to play in the wind,’” Jones said.

Jones managed to work through it and earn her third berth at the state tournament in her career — and what she said will be an emotional trip to Austin, with it being her final high school tournament with her mother as her head coach.

“It’s very rewarding in a lot of ways, to be able to see her conquer her fears and to tap into the life skills that the game allows you to learn on and off the course,” Urias said. “So it’s very rewarding as a mom, too.”

And it’ll be a rewarding experience for both when the Class 2A state championships tournament tees off at Roy Kizer Golf Course on May 15-16 in Austin.

“I am glad that I was able to accomplish this again for a third time, and I’m going to really work hard and hopefully place over there at state,” Jones said.


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