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River Hill freshmen Helen Yeung, Benjamin Siriboury sweep titles at Howard County golf championship tournament

The future of Howard County golf is in good hands.

River Hill freshmen Helen Yeung and Benjamin Siriboury made history in more ways than one at Hobbit’s Glen golf course Monday afternoon, becoming the first county champions ever from River Hill and only the second freshmen duo to win titles in the same season.

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Yeung fired a two-under-par round of 70 to win the girls title by nine shots, while Siriboury posted a two-over-par 74 to edge Howard’s Jai Sheth by one shot for the boys crown.

“To have two kids from the same school is amazing in its own right, but to have them be freshmen ... I don’t know if we will ever see that again,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “I came in knowing they had the talent to win, so I’m not surprised in that respect. With the pressure involved with playing a county tournament for the first time, though, you just don’t know how they are going to handle the moment.

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“As it turned out, it obviously didn’t bother them much.”

Yeung established control of the girls tournament early on with back-to-back birdies on the fifth and sixth holes following four straight pars to open her round. With her closest competitors — Glenelg freshman Megan Kirkpatrick (79) and Marriotts Ridge sophomore Alana Alexander-Giles (79) — both over par through that same six-hole stretch, she had herself a quick three-shot lead.

From there, Yeung said she just stuck to her game plan.

“I felt good about my strategy coming in, and I knew that if I could just hit my driver straight then I was going to have a wedge into almost every hole. And I hit my wedge right around the pin all round, so then I just had to make a few putts,” Yeung said. “I kept it pretty simple, made a few birdies and avoided anything more than bogey.”

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Even when there were hiccups, including a short putt that lipped out for par on the 11th hole and then another bogey on the 14th, Yeung quickly rebounded. She made back-to-back birdies again on holes 15 and 16 to get herself under par once again and distance herself from the field.

“I kept reminding myself to take a step back and forget about the bad shots ... missing short putts was happening to everyone today because of the greens,” said Yeung, referencing the fact that the greens at Hobbits Glen had just been aerated within the last week. “My mentality was just to tell myself to try and birdie the next hole to make up for it.”

Yeung closed her day with two tap-in pars to become the first girl to finish under par in the history of the county tournament. Atholton’s Bryana Nguyen (2011) and Howard’s Jacqueline Cherry (2016) held the previous record of even par.

Fitzpatrick started her round with five straight pars and made a string of bogeys before carding her first birdie of the day on the 10th hole. But a bogey on 12 and a double on 13 squandered any comeback hopes. Alexander-Giles, meanwhile, played her best golf down the stretch — firing a one-over-par score of 37 on the back nine after finishing six-over on the front. Her lone birdie came on the par 4 13th hole.

While Yeung played out front most of the day, Siriboury found himself part of a more tightly packed leaderboard for most of his round. And, despite having one of the top regular-season averages this spring, he admitted to having some nerves before the round started.

“I had to definitely calm myself down because that first tee I felt myself getting nervous. That tends to happen, so I kind of expected it,” Siriboury said. “But getting a few pars early was important and then, even after I made a couple bogeys, I kind of felt like my momentum kicked in by the time we got into the back nine. At the end of the round, I wasn’t actually nervous at all anymore.”

Following his third bogey of the day on the par 4 10th hole, Siriboury was at three over par and trailing Sheth by three shots. The Howard junior had birdied the 11th hole to get himself back to even par for the day and for a two-hole stretch had himself a three-shot lead.

“I came in with a lot of confidence and I felt really good about my game,” Sheth said. “I was hitting the ball well, made a lot of pars on my front nine, and then once I made that birdie [on No. 10], I felt like I really had a chance to win.”

But Sheth made two straight bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes and then, after temporarily bouncing back with a birdie on 15 to grab the lead by one again, made another two bogeys on 16 and 17. He parred 18 to post a 73 and then waited to see what happened in the group behind him.

Ultimately, Siriboury was just too steady. He carded his first birdie of the round on the 12th hole and then went on to rattle off six straight pars to close the day. On two of his final three holes, he got up-and-down from off the green for par.

“I didn’t really know where I stood, but I knew pars were good today,” he said. “That’s what I kept thinking, just play how I usually do and pars were fine.”

On the final hole, Siriboury’s birdie chip nestled within a few feet of the hole and then he tapped in for the one-shot victory.

The last time two freshmen won county titles in the same season was in 2010 when Atholton’s Bryana Nguyen and Mt. Hebron’s Joel Choi each won in the tournament held at the Timbers at Troy.

Behind the top two boys, Reservoir’s Justin Gutierrez finished alone in third with a 78, Marriotts Ridge’s Justin Allen (79) finished fourth and Marriotts Ridge’s Akash Marakath rounded out the top five with an 80.

Boys results:

1. Benjamin Siriboury, River Hill, 74; 2. Jai Sheth, Howard, 75; 3. Justin Gutierrez, Reservoir, 78; 4. Justin Allen, Marriotts Ridge, 79; 5. Akash Marakath, Marriotts Ridge, 80; T6. Sangmin Lee, Marriotts Ridge, 81; T6. Caleb Taylor, Glenelg, 81; T8. Henry Hilger, Wilde Lake, 82; T8. Shaylan Patel, Centennial, 82; T8. Dustin Stocksdale, Centennial, 82.

T11. Conarie Steinbach, Centennial, 85; T11. Robbie Graham, River Hill, 85; 13. Collin Regan, River Hill, 89; 14. Daniel Tuma, Marriotts Ridge, 94; 15. Evan Schneider, Wilde Lake, 98.

Girls results:

1. Helen Yeung, River Hill, 70; T2. Alana Alexander-Giles, Marriotts Ridge, 79; T2. Megan Kirkpatrick, Glenelg, 79.

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