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Fernandez digs out of hole, wins state title Patapsco senior saves par on 17th for comeback


It wasn't the best round of golf Jessica Fernandez has ever played, but her pivotal sand shot on the 17th hole of yesterday's final round of the Maryland High School Golf Championships was admittedly the best she'd ever hit.

More importantly, it helped win her the tournament.

Trailing by two strokes with two holes left to play at the University of Maryland GC, Fernandez found herself with a difficult lie in a bunker behind the 110-yard par 3.

Instead of panicking, the 16-year-old senior delivered a shot that hit the flag stick and rolled eight feet away.

Ever the finisher, Fernandez sank the putt for par, picking up three strokes on the first-round leader from LaPlata, who triple-bogeyed the hole after twice getting caught up in the rough.

"When you get this far, the thing is to win, and Jessica does what she has to do to win," said Patapsco coach Pat Conway, who was part of a small gallery that followed Fernandez on her two-day tour of 86-87-163.

After settling for runner-up honors behind Severna Park at the Anne Arundel County and District V tournaments, Arundel made up seven strokes on first-round runner-up Sherwood (674) and claimed second in the team competition with 670, well shy of Montgomery County power Churchill (637).

"I told the guys on the van ride home [Monday] that we've been first a couple of times and we've been third but we've never been second and that's what we shot for," said Arundel coach Carol Nutt, whose Wildcats won back-to-back state titles in 1991 and 1992.

"This was the last chance for us to prove what we are capable of as a team and they have to be happy with the way they played as a team. I know I'm happy."

Brian Wade was happy, too. Happy that he was able to cut 10 strokes off of his first-round score of 85 and happy to finally silence the Falcons.

"We wanted to try and place second and we wanted to beat Severna Park because they started talking trash during the year," said Wade, who chipped in twice for birdie and drained a 15-foot putt for another one on No. 15, before finishing with a four-over par 75.

"This was one of my best rounds this year. I really didn't get in trouble that much and I kept away from the doubles."

Churchill's Keith Unikel (73-77-150) won the boys championship for the second straight year, marking only the second time in the 25-year history of the event that someone claimed back-to-back titles.

Jon Ahlgren of Annapolis was the highest metro finisher, tying for third with 75-80-155.

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