Atholton's Nguyen sets record on way to second state golf crown

By the time she reached the final green of this year's state championship tournament at the University of Maryland Golf Course, Atholton's Bryana Nguyen had already all but locked up her second straight individual state crown.

A 5-under-par score of 66 in her opening round, followed by a stellar start to her final 18 holes had not only distanced Nguyen from the field but put her on the verge of etching her name into the record books.

Yet, as she stared down her 12-foot putt for birdie on that final par 5, there was a sense that the Raiders' senior was still looking to put an exclamation point on things.

"I definitely wanted that one … I wanted to be able to say I made birdie on my last hole of my last high school round," Nguyen said. "After the way I had played the last couple days, I felt like a birdie would be a perfect way to finish it."

Showing the same unwavering composure she had all week, Nguyen drilled the putt dead center in front of sizable crowd to put the finishing touches on what truly was a historic performance. Her two-day total of 134 (8-under par) shattered the previous girls two-day state tournament record by six shots and put her seven shots clear of second-place finisher Delaney Shah of Wootton.

After finishing runner-up to Arundel's Elyse Smidinger as a freshman and sophomore at the season-ending event, Nguyen closed her high school career in style with back-to-back state titles.

"I'm ending better than I ever could have hoped for, not just winning but doing it by this much and with these scores is definitely special," she said.

Howard County was well represented in the overall girls top five, with the Marriotts Ridge duo of Rachel Lee and Lauren Kim both joining Nguyen. Lee fired a final-round score of 1-under par (70) to finish alone in third (two-day total of 147), while Kim took home fifth (155).

But, ultimately, this was Nguyen's show from start to finish.

In the first round, she started things off with birdies on three of her first four holes and never slowed down on her way to breaking the girls tournament single-day record by two shots. She finished with five birdies and no bogeys.

Then out of the gates in round two, she practically duplicated her opening barrage from two days earlier with birdies on her first three holes.

"I like those holes, those are good starting holes … definitely better than having to start on the front (nine) like the boys did," Nguyen said. "I feel like I can birdie any of those first four and both days I was able to build the kind of momentum I needed to give me the confidence to go out and shoot under par."

Nguyen had opened up a sizable nine-shot cushion by the time she made her first hiccup of the tournament. She made back-to-back bogeys on her sixth and seventh holes, dropping her back to 1-under for the round.

"It was a really silly bogey that first one, a three-putt from five feet, and I hit a bad approach into the next hole, but I still felt like I was playing well," Nguyen. "It was just a matter of getting back to my game."

It didn't take long for Nguyen to get things back on track, as she sank a long birdie putt on her ninth hole to make the turn at 2-under for the day and 7-under for the tournament. She then cruised her way around the back nine, exchanging a bogey and a birdie around six other pars, leading up to her final birdie on the last hole.

For Lee, a first-round score of 77 spoiled any run at this year's title. But in the final round, she regrouped to post her best score ever at the state tournament (70).

She got particularly hot on her back nine, rolling off three consecutive birdies between her 11th and 13th holes.

"All round I was staying patient because I knew my game was going to come around … I could tell I was playing much better than the first day," Lee said. "Then finally on that back nine I got a few putts to drop and suddenly I was making birdie after birdie."

Lee ended up making a couple bogeys over her final holes to fall six shots short of Shah for second place, but she still managed her top finish at the closing tournament.

Kim, a Mustangs' freshman who posted rounds of 77 and 78 to finish fifth, led the other notable county finishers. Oakland Mills' Samyra Lewis (tied for 11th at 164) and Atholton's Amanda Petersen (tied for 19th at 171) also finished inside the top 20.

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