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Benjamin Siriboury, Helen Yeung combine for River Hill sweep of 4A/3A state golf individual championships

River Hill sophomores Benjamin Siriboury and Helen Yeung have been pushing one another and sharing experiences on the golf course since meeting for the first time four years ago.

They practice together, play together and this past spring — as freshmen — they captured Howard County championships together. In the aftermath of that tournament, they each vowed to work toward coming back even stronger this fall to make their first experiences at the district and state championship events memorable as well.

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On Wednesday at the University of Maryland Golf Course, playing in the final round of the state championship golf tournament, Siriboury and Yeung made good on their promises.

Siriboury fired a 3-under-par 68 in the final round, tying a boys individual state record with his two-day 4-under-par 138 total (70-68), to win the 4A/3A title by three shots over Dulaney’s Nick Charlow (70-71 — 141). Not to be outdone, Yeung birdied her final hole to post a 4-over-par 146 total (71-75) and secure the 4A/3A girls individual crown by one shot over Thomas Wootton’s Rita Liu (73-74 — 147).

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It’s the fifth time in state history that a boys and girls player from the same school have won state titles in the same season and the first time since 2017 when Marriotts Ridge’s Faith McIlvain and David Stephens accomplished the feat.

“Having someone like Ben to play with and compete against, it definitely helps. We push one another to keep improving, to try and become the greatest player we can possibly be,” Yeung said. “We work on our own and have our own goals, but a lot of the time we are trying for the same things. And I think the big thing is we are both trying to work together to set new standards for the River Hill golf team.”

Wearing a rather stoic expression throughout his winning round, one that included four birdies and just one bogey, Siriboury’s biggest smile of the day actually came as he walked off the 18th green and heard the news that Yeung had won as well.

“I’m really happy for her because I know how hard she worked for this … I mean, I saw it as we were preparing for this tournament together,” Siriboury said. “So, yeah, it means a lot to win together. This was a goal for both of us for a long time.”

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Even with the two champions, though, it still wasn’t quite enough to push River Hill over the top in the 4A/3A team competition. The Hawks’ two-day team total of 624 ended up four strokes behind champion Urbana (620) and one behind runner-up Winston Churchill (631).

In the 2A/1A classification, Poolesville (669) took home the team title by 12 shots over Boonsboro (681). C. Milton Wright (691) was third and Hereford (703) fourth.

Individually in 2A/1A, Poolesville’s Olivia Cong was the girls winner with a 144 total (72-72) and North East’s Noah Wallace captured the boys title with a score of 145 (72-73). Both victories were runaways, as Cong won by four shots over La Plata’s Shelby Herbert and Wallace was seven better than Brunswick’s Hank Adams.

4A/3A Boys

River Hill's Benjamin Siriboury lines up a putt for par on the 18th hole on his way to winning the 3A/4A individual boys championship during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
River Hill's Benjamin Siriboury lines up a putt for par on the 18th hole on his way to winning the 3A/4A individual boys championship during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

It is said that records are made to be broken, but Siriboury came into the final round Wednesday with no designs of etching his name in the history books. In fact, as he started the day one shot off the lead held by Howard’s Jai Sheth, his entire focus was simply on staying steady.

“My whole plan today was just to try and make pars, especially with it being windy,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to attack anything but the par 5s and short par 4s.”

The plan played out to perfection, as he started his round with eight straight pars and let those around him make the mistakes. Then he started to put the accelerator down a bit with a birdie on No. 9 and suddenly had himself a two-shot lead. Over that same front nine, each of the other four players that were under par after the opening round — Sheth, Charlow, Centennial’s Dustin Stocksdale and Walt Whitman’s Charlie Schulman — had gone backwards.

Even as players attempted to make a push to get themselves back into the thick of the race, including Charlow birding the par-4 12th hole to temporarily pull within one shot, Siriboury never flinched.

“I mean I would have loved to have won, but he just outplayed me today. I played great, honestly the best I could in these conditions with the wind, and he was just better,” said Charlow, who finished the day with pars on 16 out of 18 holes. “Most days pars are good enough, but when he’s making birdie after birdie on top of me there’s just not a lot you can do.”

Siriboury made birdies on holes 14, 16 and 17 to take complete control and bring the all-time scoring record into play.

“After my birdie on 16, that tee shot on 17 is super tight and my heart was definitely beating a little bit. That was the first time, I knew I was getting close [to winning],” Siriboury said. “Hitting a good one there, setting up another birdie, that was big.”

His only bad swing of the day came off the tee on No. 18 and resulted in an unplayable lie, eventually leading to his lone bogey of the round. He still secured a piece of the record, set by Marriotts Ridge’s Bennett Buch as a freshman back in 2012, with a 3-foot-putt to close the day.

Sheth ended up finishing in third place (69-74 —143) and did so thanks to a strong finish. After the 11th hole, he was 5-over on the day and out of contention for the championship. But the Lions’ senior pulled himself together to play 2-under the rest of the way — including birdies on two of his final three holes.

“Being my last year, I wanted to make sure that I left here with a good memory. Even though I couldn’t win at that point, I kept telling myself to at least make a few birdies to push myself back up the leaderboard,” Sheth said. “I was happy I put my mind to it and got those last two birdies, but I guess, at the same time, it’s just tough knowing that some of those terrible shots at the beginning cost me.”

Rounding out the top six were Stocksdale (70-75 — 145), Sherwood’s Bryan Kim (71-75 — 146) and Urbana’s Bach Ngo (74-72 — 146).

4A/3A Girls

River Hill's Helen Yeung, right, is congratulated by playing partner Shoshana Zuck of Magruder after sinking a putt on the 9th hole to win the 3A/4A individual girls championship by one stroke during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
River Hill's Helen Yeung, right, is congratulated by playing partner Shoshana Zuck of Magruder after sinking a putt on the 9th hole to win the 3A/4A individual girls championship by one stroke during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

Yeung entered the final round Wednesday ahead of the girls field by one shot following an even-par opening-round of 71. But by the time she reached the early portion of the back nine, not only was the lead gone but she found herself trailing by several strokes.

The Hawks’ sophomore played her first 10 holes in 4-over and Liu played that same stretch in 1-under to turn a 2-shot deficit into a 3-shot lead.

“I had to take a few deep breaths and remind myself to just play my own golf game. I needed a complete reset for the back nine,” Yeung said. “I also tried to think back to the lesson I learned from county’s about not thinking about the outcome and just trying to hit good shots.”

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Slowly but surely, good shots and steady play helped Yeung start making up ground.

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Liu missed a string of short putts in the middle of the back nine on the way to two bogeys and a double bogey. Yeung ended up picking up one shot on each of those three holes and suddenly found herself in a tie for the lead with two holes left.

Both players parred their 17th hole of the day and then on the finishing hole, after hitting her third shot just over the green on the par 5, Yeung was faced with a birdie putt to win the tournament. She calmly delivered the downhill shot into the bottom of the cup to win by a shot.

Although, in the moment, she says she didn’t even realize the magnitude of that final putt.

“I actually did not know that was to win because I had just been keeping my own score all day,” Yeung said. “I knew we were close, but on that last putt I was more just thinking that I wanted to finish strong and I felt confident and committed to it. … It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know because it allowed me to not overthink everything.”

Behind Yeung and Liu, rounding out the top five girls were Magruder’s Shoshana Zuck (72-79 — 151), Urbana’s AnPhi Le (77-76 — 153) and Marriotts Ridge’s Alana Alexander-Giles (75-79 — 154).

2A/1A Classification

South Carroll's Michael Valerio watches a shot from the 3rd hole soar towards the green during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
South Carroll's Michael Valerio watches a shot from the 3rd hole soar towards the green during the final round of the MPSSAA Golf Championships at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

South Carroll freshman Michael Valerio built on a solid opening round to move up into the top five Wednesday. He knocked three shots off his score on Day 2 and posted a combined total of 153 (78-75) that was good enough to finish in a tie for third place.

He was the top Baltimore-area finisher in the 2A/1A classification.

“I definitely learned from yesterday and, while the conditions weren’t quite as tough, I was able to improve on the holes that I blew up on to go from two double bogeys to a par and a bogey — that was ultimately the three shot difference,” Valerio said.

Valerio ended up making three birdies in his second round, helping him move up the leaderboard after finishing in a tie for 10th on Day 1.

“I’m so glad that I got the chance to come out and succeed this year against a lot of great golfers. It shows me what my potential can be,” he said. “I mean, top 10 finish is absolutely all I could ask for. I went into this, thinking that I was going to play the first day and just be happy with that. So to do this … it’s incredible.”

North Harford’s Zachary Wilcox also earned a top-five finish with a two-day total of 154 (78-76).

Glenelg sophomore Megan Kirkpatrick was the top local finisher among the 2A/1A girls, firing a 79 for a second straight day to finish alone in fourth place with a total of 158. Her final round was highlighted by shooting 1-over on her front nine with eight pars and just one bogey.

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