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Trojillo, Pak break through for Howard County golf championship tournament titles

Centennial senior Isabel Trojillo talks about her round of 78 at Hobbit's Glen on Tuesday, Sept. 26 to win the 2017 Howard County girls golf county championship tournament.

Centennial's Isabel Trojillo didn't know how far behind she was and, as she admitted afterward, that's how she wanted it.

Instead, after a day full of near misses at the county championship tournament being played at Hobbit's Glen on Tuesday, the Eagles' senior said that all she was looking for was something to get her round going.

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So when her putt dropped on the par 5 15th hole for her first birdie of the day, Trojillo knew exactly how much it meant. Spurred on by that hole, she proceeded to close her day with a pair of pars and that turned out to be just enough to shoot a round of 78 and earn a one-shot victory over Howard senior Jacqueline Cherry.

"That putt on 15, that's when I think it really clicked that I might just have a chance. I didn't know where I was, how close I was to Jackie or anything, but it was such a relief to finally see a birdie putt go in that I had a new sense of confidence," Trojillo said. "I can't really explain it, but that's when I started believing I could do something special."

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The clutch finish helped Trojillo erase Cherry's two-shot lead with three holes to play and secure her the first tournament title of her high school career.

And, as it turned out, she wasn't the only first-time winner on the day.

Marriotts Ridge's Alex Pak talks about his round of 77 at Hobbit's Glen on Tuesday, Sept. 26 to win the 2017 Howard County boys golf county championship tournament.

Marriotts Ridge senior Alex Pak also rebounded from a slow start to play his back nine in even par to shoot a 77 and win the boys tournament title by two strokes over a group of four players — Marriotts Ridge's Akash Marakath and Isaac Kim, River Hill's Kevin Hickey and Centennial's Ty Sams — at 79.

For Pak, playing in the second boys group, it was a breakthrough after finishing in a tie for 11th at last year's event.

"It's so special to me," he said. "I've never won anything before, so I'm really excited that I finally won something my senior year."

Trojillo came into this year's county tournament with a successful pedigree, having finished top three at last year's county event and 12th at the state championships. But she had never won, so as the putts lipped out early in her round, there was a sense that this might end up being another near miss.

Of particular concern was a miss from three-feet for par on her 10th hole that, at the time, put her three shots behind Cherry. But instead of fading when things weren't going her way, Trojillo rallied.

"Even when I missed that short putt for par, I was like 'OK whatever, just make the rest of them.' Which I fortunately did," she said. "I just kept my head in the game and just forgot about all the bad strokes and kept going for it."

Cherry, who won last year's county championship by 15 shots, ran into some trouble on the back nine. She made a bogey on 10 and then a double bogey on 12. She steadied the ship with three straight pars after that, maintaining a two-shot lead at the time.

But by closing with back-to-back bogies she ended up losing the lead for the first time all afternoon on the final hole.

"I really wasn't playing well all day, even when I had the lead. I was just missing way too many short putts and it cost me in the end," Cherry said. "But the nice thing I guess is that I still have districts and states, and I know what I need to work on now. This definitely gives me more motivation to go and practice so I am ready for those tournaments."

Trojillo was ready to seize the opening. She followed up her birdie on 15 with a two-putt par on 16. Then she piped her drive down the middle on her final hole of the day — the par 4 17th — before knocking her approach to within 15 feet for birdie.

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Two putts later she was a champion.

Behind the top two, Marriotts Ridge's Faith McIlvain and Howard's Alex Abrams were four shots back of Trojillo with rounds of 82. McIlvain ended up in third courtesy of a scorecard tiebreaker.

On the boys side, the lead changed hands throughout the afternoon with more than a dozen players in the mix all the way into the back nine.

In the early going, ironically, Pak wasn't one of those leaders.

He hit his second shot on the par 5 second hole into the water and ended up making a double bogey. He followed that up with bogeys on his fourth and fifth holes to quickly sit at 4-over par.

Elsewhere, Marakath was just one-over through his first seven holes and a host of others were just two-over.

But as the round wore on, the entire field continued making bogies while Pak instead steadied his ship. Starting with the ninth hole, he rolled off a string of eight straight pars to pull himself into the lead.

"I really struggled on the front nine, a lot of mistakes there. But on the back nine I really turned it on," Pak said.

A mishit drive on No. 17 led to a bogey, but Pak regrouped again to make a birdie on 18 and separate himself from the competition.

Boys Scores:

1. Alex Pak, MR, 77; 2.* Akash Marakath, MR, 79; 3.* Ty Sams, C, 79; 4.* Isaac Kim, MR, 79; 4.* Isaac Kim, MR, 79; 5.* Kevin Hickey, RH, 79; 6.* Ryan Jung, MH, 80; 7. David Stephens, MR, 80; T8. Branden Nguyen, A, 81; T8. Kenny Chaplain, C, 81.

T10. Caleb Taylor, G, 83; T10. Shashank Gupta, Ho, 83; T10. Josh Mann, RH, 83; T13. Cam Deiuliis, RH, 84; T13. Adam Fairbanks, OM, 84; T15. Brandon Writt, G, 85; T15. Takumi Fukuzawa, C, 85; T17. Michael Forester, G, 86; T17. Jake Watson, C, 86; T19. Sung Kim, MH, 87; T19. Tony Mobley, G, 87.

21. Justin Allen, MR, 88; 22. Lake Lloyd, MH, 89; 23. Trace Teodori, Re, 90; T24. Brett Pool, Ho, 92; T24. Eric Schneider, WL, 92; 26. Jackson Graves, RH, 94; 27. Will Reid, RH, 95.

Girls Scores:

1. Isabel Trojillo, C, 78; 2. Jacqueline Cherry, Ho, 79; 3.* Faith McIlvain, MR, 82; 4.* Alex Abrams, Ho, 82; 5.* Megumi Fukuzawa, C, 96; 6.* Joanna Park, C, 96; 7. Lee Lee Sands, WL, 97; T8. Logan Lurie, Ho, 98; T8. Adrienne Lesho, RH, 98; 10. Julianna Dorsch, MR, 104.

11. Morgan Taylor, C, 105; 12. Sarah Spall, WL, 109; 13. Ally Abruscato, G, 112; 14. Katie Cody, C, 117.

*Ties in the top 6 decided by scorecard tiebreakers

Reach Brent Kennedy at bkennedy@baltsun.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports

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