Lady Monarch Signee Morrell Wins THird Straight State Title
June 2, 2009
By John GILLOOLY Journal Sports Writer High School GameTIME
NARRAGANSETT - She was about 35 feet from the cup on the 17th green and holding a one-stroke lead in her quest for a third consecutive R.I. Interscholastic League girls state golf title.
That was just a little too close for comfort for Samantha Morrell.
So the North Kingstown senior calmly drained the 35-footer for the eagle-three that gave her a three-stroke lead going to the final hole.
"After that, I just had to think about playing smart, not get myself into trouble," said Morrrell.
And that's exactly what she did as she followed the eagle with the by-the-book par-five on the 18th that gave her a final, four-over 76 and a three-stroke margin of victory over La Salle sophomore Juliet Vongphoumy in the 18-hole girls state tournament at Point Judith Country Club on Monday.
The victory makes Morrell only the second player since the modern-version of the Interscholastic League girls state golf tournament began in 1992 to win three or more consecutive state titles.
North Kingstown's Dara Rittman won four straight crowns from 1993 to 1996. Only one other player, Narragansett's Lauren Grzebien, won a total of three titles, but Grzebien won the championships in her freshman, sophomore and senior years. Mary Ellen Grzebien edged her younger sister for the title in Lauren's junior year in 1999.
The eagle on the 17th created the first substantial separation between Morrell and Vongphoumy, the state's top two female high school golfers, since the duo took the turn on to the final nine holes deadlocked at two-over par. Vongphoumy, who won the 2008 co-ed state high school tourney while playing from the women's tees, also finished second in last year's girls state tourney.
Related links Girls golf championship photo gallery
Jim Donaldson: Morrell's mentally tough After the duo opened the day matching pars on the first three holes, Morrell took a one-stroke lead with a birdie three on the fourth hole. But two holes later, Vongphoumy had a two-stroke lead when she carded a birdie three on the sixth while Morrell was double-bogeying. Morrell also bogeyed the seventh, giving Vongphoumy a chance to go three-up with a par.
Vongphoumy's triple-bogey seven on the 8th gave Morrell a chance to cut her deficit to two with a bogey-five, then Morrell deadlocked the issue with a birdie-two on the ninth.
Another triple by Vongphoumy on 10 gave Morrell a chance to forge a two-stroke lead, but Vongphoumy quickly pulled even again with pars on both 11 and 12 while Morrell was bogeying.
"I was trying not to think about where I stood in the match. I was more concerned with playing the golf course, hitting greens and putting the ball in the hole," Morrell said about being deadlocked with only six holes to go.
"But I have to admit, I was a little nervous on 12," Morrell said. "It's totally natural. I'm just happy I kept my nerves in control."
Extremely windy conditions also added a measure of uncertainty to the battle, especially later in the afternoon, when the players where heading down the home stretch.
"I've never seen wind this bad," said Morrell. "Even when I played at North Kingstown down at Quonset, it's windy, but nothing like this. This was pretty relentless and it was swilling. A lot of good drives got carried left to right and the putting was the worst. The ball was wobbling a lot."
But Morrell managed to harness both the elements and the pressure of going for a third straight title down the stretch. She played one-under golf over the final six holes, with the eagle, four pars and a bogey. She took a one-stroke lead with a par-four on the 14th while Vongphoumy was bogeying.
Then after she and Vongphoumy traded pars on 15 and 16, Morrell virtually settled the issue with the long eagle putt on the 391-yard 17th, which is a par-four from the white tees but a par-five from the women's tees.
"It was a right-to-left breaker," Morrell said of the title-deciding putt. "It stayed on its line for about halfway then slowly kept coming, kept coming and went in about the right-center of the cup."
Morrell then methodically hit two four-woods within about 50 yards of the 454-yard 18th green, chipped up to within 10 feet of the cup with her third shot and two-putter for the par.
"I'm usually the long hitter, but I wasn't sure how far it was to the [fairway] traps, so I played it safe and used a four-wood off the tee. I didn't want to get in one of those traps on the final hole, and I was worried about hitting an errant drive."
"It's hard not to think about it," Morrell offered about what virtually became a match-play title battle between her and Vongphoumy in a medal-play tournament.
"I tried not to, but to be honest, I did a little," Morrell added. "But I just tried to play my game and play it one shot at a time."
Morrell and Vongphoumy were the only players in the 22-player field who shot in the 70s. Lincoln High three-time All-Stater Jenna Masnyk captured third with a 14-over 86.
SCORES: Samantha Morrell, North Kingstown 76; Juliet Vongphoumy, La Salle 79, Jenna Masnyk, Lincoln H. 86, Katie Rockwell, Bay View 90; Junette Vongphoumy, Classical 92; Kelsey Hayward, Bay View 95; Layson Reposa, East Greenwich 98; Meredith Craine, Bay View 100; Kaylyn Crowley, Pilgrim 104; Gabrielle Griot, Barrington 105; Gina Bartolotta, South Kingstown 107; Glenna Druken, Rogers 109; Susan Cavanagh, Pilgrim 109; Jenna Bessette, Pilgrim 110; Lauren Beaudette, Bay View 112; Angelica Muscatelli, Bay View; 118; Stephanie Glynn, Middletown 120; Natalie Beauparlant, East Providence 122; Jane Duggan, Exeter/W. Green. 123; Michelle Fisette, Smithfield, 127; Amanda Ruggieri, Cranston West 129