When Elma junior Lauryn Keating sank a par putt on the 18th hole at the Class 1A girls state golf tournament on May 29, she had no idea she had just won the state championship.
“It was pretty unreal because I didn’t even know I won,” Keating said. “It was amazement at first, and then I was just really happy. I thought that at the end of 18 that we were going to a playoff, and then I looked back and my whole family is hugging each other. Then my dad came up to me and he called me a state champ, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I did it.’”
Keating began the tournament with a 78 in the opening round and trailed two-time state champion Bree Wandersheid by two strokes going into the second day. On Thursday, Keating kept her head down trying not put a lot of pressure on herself, but just concentrating on her own game. To calm her nerves, she kept the song “We Own It” by Wiz Kahlifa and 2 Chainz in her head throughout her final 18.
“That is one of my favorite songs and it has a tune that just keeps me in line,” Keating said. “It doesn’t get me too upbeat and it doesn’t get me down. It is my perfect remedy. It kept my head clear and it kept me away from what was happening with the scores.”
The turning point came in the 12th and 13th holes for Keating. A bad lie after her tee shot on the 12th turned into a scrambling up-and-down bogey out of the woods. This put Keating three strokes back of Wandersheid with six holes to play.
On the 13th hole, Keating noted that she found her swing again on her approach to the green, which led to a birdie to get one stroke closer to the lead.
“I definitely needed to keep going,” Keating added. “That (bogey on 12th) made me want to keep going harder. I knew I was still in it and had a chance. Whatever the outcome, I would be happy if I kept trying my hardest. I knew I was still close and still had a lot of golf yet to play.”
Wandersheid bogied the 14th and 17th holes to bring the match to a one-hole showdown. Wandersheid’s approach shot caught a limb from a tree next to the green, while Keating hit a knocked-down wedge to 12 feet of the pin, according to Lauryn’s father, Mark Keating.
“That shot put the pressure on Bree, who had to get up and down off the green,” Mark Keating added. “I’m really proud of her. This is a valuable lesson in that it isn’t over until it is over.”
Lauryn Keating had been so focused on making the best shot that she had lost track of her own score and thought she had only tied Wandersheid instead of winning by one stroke.
Keating two-putted for par on the 18th to win the tournament with a round of 73 for a total of 151, one better than Wandersheid, who finished with a 76 for a 152 total.
This isn’t the first time Keating has been atop the leaderboard at a state tournament. She won the Washington Junior Golf Association state tournament as an individual at the ages of 11 and 15. As a freshman, Keating played with her older sister, Alexis, and teammate Jenna Powers to combine for the state 1A girls team championship in 2012.
Keating plans to join Alexis at the University of Colorado at Boulder as she has already verbally committed to join the Buffaloes, but first she has one more year at Elma. She plans to savor the championship for a while, but she will be out preparing for a title defense this week.
“I’m just going to concentrate on my game again,” Keating said. “I’m getting a practice plan together. I’m not going to think of it as I’m the defending state champ, I’m just going to work on my game and go out and play my best.”
Rob Burns of The Daily World contributed to this story.