Howard’s Jacqueline Cherry will be the first to tell you that her senior year didn’t exactly follow the script she had in her head.
Coming off a junior year where she rolled her way to county and district titles before finishing second in a playoff at the state championship tournament, the bar had been set incredibly high. So when there were speed bumps this fall, including falling short at the county championship tournament and a tough final day at states that led to an eighth-place finish, Cherry’s resolve was put to the test.
At the end of the day, however, the legacy of the Lions’ top player will be defined by her triumphs far more than her narrow misses.
Cherry will graduate in the spring as the best player Howard’s girls golf program has ever had, winning an individual county title (2016), two individual district championships (2016 and 2017) and serving as the leader of a team that finished atop the county four consecutive years.
“I was definitely disappointed after states and I know I could have done so much better, but I’ve played enough at this point to know that’s golf sometimes. You are going to have rounds like that, but overall … yeah, there’s a lot to be proud of,” said Cherry, who has been named the Howard County Girls Golfer of the Year for a second consecutive year this fall.
“I came into high school, really never having played competitive golf before. So to go from that to what I did, it’s hard not to be incredibly happy about it. Honestly, if someone told me I would get to this point before my freshman year, I would never have believed them.”
While this year’s postseason fell short of her lofty expectations, Cherry’s body of work is still incredibly impressive.
During the regular season she posted the top scoring average in the county, averaging 25.0 points a match — over two points better than any other girls player. She had three under-par nine-hole rounds, including career-best scores of 29 points (2-under par) on two different occasions.
No other county girls player had a single under-par round this fall.
“When she was relaxed, having fun and trusting herself out on the course, she really made it look effortless,” Howard coach Joshua McGoun said. “At her best, she could do things that blew me away.”
Cherry said that her biggest focus during the offseason was on her strength and adding distance off the tee. She said she was hitting the ball an average of 30 yards further with her driver by the beginning of the fall, and that opened the door for some of the best rounds of her career.
“Last year at states, I was hitting the ball so much shorter than the other girls, so while I worked on everything … getting stronger and longer was what I spent the most time on,” Cherry said. “It definitely made a huge difference. I was able to drive the ball closer to the green on par 4s and really just attack all the time.”
During this year’s postseason, she finished second at the county championship tournament with a round of 79, one stroke behind Centennial’s Isabel Trojillo. She then regrouped to win the District V tournament by firing a round of 75, two shots ahead of Marriotts Ridge’s Faith McIlvain.
Then at states, Cherry shot an opening-round 72 to put herself within a shot of the lead before a final-round score of 83 dropped her into eighth place. Looking back, though, McGoun said one round shouldn’t overshadow the overall body of work.
“I think when you look at all athletes, no matter what the level, sometimes they get to a point where they want something so bad that they are thrown off balance and get out of their comfort zone,” he said. “And I think with Jackie, having come so close as a junior at the state tournament, she may have just let some of that get in the way of just going out and having fun like she usually does on the course.”
McGoun added that he thinks Cherry, who has been the face of the Lions’ program for the last four years, is still just scratching the surface of her potential. Next year, she will be playing Division I golf at the Naval Academy.
“Ever since sophomore year, that’s where I knew I wanted to go,” Cherry said. “I was in contact with their coach and going to play at the course every chance I got. I actually was even considering not playing golf if it came to that and just applying to go there for just academics.
“But I’m so excited and happy to have the opportunity to get to do both.”
Season highlights: In eight regular season matches for a Lions’ team that went a perfect 11-0, Abrams finished with a scoring average of 20.6 points. She posted a career-high 24 points in a key victory over an undefeated Centennial team on Sept. 7. On six occasions she scored 21 points or more. She placed in a tie for third at the county championship tournament with a round of 82 and then finished fifth at the District V championship tournament with an 88. At the state championships, she shot an opening-day 95 and did not make the final round.
Megumi Fukuzawa, Centennial, junior
Season highlights: Consistently playing in the top group for the Eagles, Fukuzawa finished with a scoring average of 14.2 points per match for a Centennial team that posted a regular-season record of 10-1. Her season high was 18 points on two occasions. Fukuzawa finished fifth at the county championship tournament with a score of 96 and sixth at the District V tournament with a score of 92. She closed her year with a score of 104 on the first day of the state championship, failing to qualify for the final round.
Logan Lurie, Howard, sophomore
Season highlights: For the county-champion Lions, Lurie posted a regular season scoring average of 15.6 points a match. Her season high was 23 points in a tri-match sweep of Mt. Hebron and Oakland Mills at Fairway Hills Golf Course. She finished tied for eighth at the county championship tournament with a 98 and then finished seventh at the District V tournament with a score of 94.
Season highlights: As a second-year player for the Mustangs, McIlvain got better as the year progressed. She was second in the county with a regular-season scoring average of 22.9 points, including a season-high 26 points on two occasions. She then tied for third at the county tournament with an 82 and placed second at the District V tournament with a 77. But her best tournament came at the state championships, where she fired a two-day total of 147 (71 and 76) to win the 1A/2A state title by 11 shots.
Season highlights: As the senior leader for an Eagles’ team that went 10-1 this fall, Trojillo finished with a scoring average of 22.4 points a match. She twice posted rounds of 25 points during the regular season. She then broke through to pick up the first postseason victory of her career at the county championship tournament, coming back over the final few holes to post a score of 78 and win by one shot. She then tied for third at the District V tournament with score of 84, before closing her career with an opening-round 85 at the state championship tournament to just miss the cut for the final day.