TUPELO – There’s no place like home.
Under threatening skies, Tupelo worked a little golf wizardry Thursday on its home course, edging three-time defending champion Madison Central by a stroke for the Class 6A state title.
“This team really put it all together at the end of the season,” said coach Sherry Rial.
It’s the 13th state title for the Golden Wave – their first since 2013 – and a great way for seniors including Walker Clayton to close their careers.
“This group of seniors hadn’t won a state title,” said Clayton, who tied for fifth overall. “It feels great.”
His par putt on the 18th, after he’d put his final drive in the rough, provided the final margin.
“I didn’t know where we stood until I got to the fairway on the 18th,” Clayton said. “Everyone was on pins and needles.”
Rial’s advice: “Play it smart.”
Said Clayton: “I put my second shot in the fairway and my third shot on the green.”
It left him a 12-footer for the victory. “I just didn’t want to hit it too hard,” he said.
Tupelo, which led by two strokes after the first round, finished at 298-310–608. Madison Central posted a 300-309–609.
“After the first round, I told them all the pressure was on the other teams,” Rial said. “I wanted them to be aggressive but careful.”
A year ago, after a 15-stroke loss to Madison Central, Rial had said she hoped bringing her team to its home course would be a formula for success. “It’s always great to play your home course,” she said Thursday.
Sophomore Brookes Hudson (72-76–148) was Tupelo’s top finisher, in fourth place overall. The other Wave scorers were all seniors: Clayton (72-78–150), Miles Roy (77-76–153) and Taylor Repogle (77-80–157).
“We were all thinking about last season, and how this was a great chance for us to win at home,” Hudson said. “I left a few strokes out there but winning makes it all better.”
If the finish felt familiar to Rial, it’s because her girls team won the Class 6A state title – its first – by a stroke on Tuesday.
“It’s like a broken record, but it sounds great,” Rial said.
Madison Central’s Brice Wilkinson was the individual medalist with a 1-under 71-72–143.