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Lewis and Clark wins state golf title

The Lewis and Clark girls golf team won its first 4A State title Thursday, blitzing the competition at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Chessey Thomas also took the individual title with a birdie on the final hole. Over at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick, Hank Frame of U-Hi finished a stroke out of a playoff for the individual boys crown. Lewis and Clark's boys finished fifth in the team race. For our unedited story that will appear in tomorrow's S-R, read on.
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• Here's the story ...

PASCO – Sometimes, on the golf course, you shoot for one thing and gain another.

Such was the case for Chessey Thomas on Thursday.

The Lewis and Clark High junior was just trying to play well and help the Tigers win the State 4A girls title.

They did, running away from runner-up Richland, 121.5 to 69.50.

And Thomas didn't just play well.

She played like a champion, birding the final hole at Sun Willows Golf Course to edge Seo Hee Moon of Kamiak, the 2007 champ, by a stroke with a two-day total of 5-under par 139.

"My goal wasn't necessarily to win individually," said Thomas, who attends St. George's but, because the Dragons don't field a team, plays for LC. "It was to play my best and place as high as I could and help the team."

University's Hank Frame, who went into the second day of the boys' tournament at Canyon Lakes in Kennewick three strokes behind leader Kevin Penner of Eastlake, hoped to finish his high school career with a title, but a double-bogey on the 12th derailed his chances.

"It looked really good, it was going right at the pin," said Frame of his tee shot on the par 3, "and then right when it dropped, it hit just short of the fringe and kicked right back into the water. ... I duffed a chip and two-putted for my double."

Still Frame, who is headed to Washington State next year, had a 6-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have put him in a three-way playoff for the title. He couldn't coax it in.

"If it wasn't going in, I would hit it about 10-feet past," he said of the attempt. "It was directly above the hole, where you don't need to be."

Frame's 1-over 73 Thursday left him tied for fourth (144 total), a stroke out of the playoff won by Penner, headed to UNLV, with a birdie on the first extra hole.

Ferris' Garrett Howard tied for eighth at 149 and Mead's Matt Penny shot twin 75s to tie for 11th. The Lewis and Clark duo of Christian Alfaro and Justin Haase each finished at 154, in a seven-way tie for 17th. They also finished fifth in the team competition.

U-Hi's Kaitlen Parsons improved by four strokes and finished tied for eighth (150) in the girls, while G-Prep's Elaine Whaley was six strokes further back in 16th.

But the warm day belonged to the LC girls.

Haase's freshman sister, Megan, finished fifth at 146, shooting an even-par 72 Thursday. With fellow freshman Sydney Kersten's 158 (tied for 20th) and Emily Travis' 160 (24th), the Tiger girls breezed to their first 4A girls title after being close the past few years. The Greater Spokane League has won 11 team titles, though the last was Gonzaga Prep's in 2002.

"You kind of get lost in the competition getting here," said fourth-year LC coach Michelle Grafos-Hellhake. "The last three years that's what we've done. We've gotten so wrapped up with getting here that we didn't play well here."

They played well this time. And enjoyed the experience.

Travis, the Tigers lone senior, loves the camaraderie playing high school golf brings to a usually solitary sport.

"It helps a lot," she said. "When you're walking on the course, you can look over at another hole and see your teammate and they always cheer you up. You want to do a lot better because you don't want to let down your team."

But there are still individual battles to be won. Thomas won hers by with a little help from Moon, who bogeyed 16 and 17 – three-putting both – to open the door.

Up until then the first-day leader – Moon shot 69 on Wednesday to Thomas' 71 – had putted lights out, saving par at the first with an 18 footer and nailing a 36-footer for birdie on 10.

The bomb tied her with Thomas, who had birdied 6, 7 and 8 – her 6-iron on the 164-yard par-3 seventh landed 3 feet below the cup – as part of a 3-under 33 on the front.

"I happened to birdie that par 3 both days," Thomas said. "And that's a long one. Anytime you can birdie a par 3, that's a huge momentum booster."

But Moon birdied 11 and 12 to lead by two again. Then Thomas' state-title hopes almost disappeared on 14, when her 280-yard drive rolled to a stop 5 yards from the fairway but under a small pine.

"That was kind of a bummer," said Thomas, who uttered "oh, good," when she saw her ball. "I decided I was down, so I might as well try to hit it out towards the green and, if it didn't get there, I just kind of hoped it went forward."

It did neither. The shot hit a branch, went right about 20 yards, led to a bogey and a three-shot deficit.

Moon hit her tee shot on 15 in the water, but saved par with a wonderful 5-wood. Thomas, who averaged about 260 off the tee and drove the 270-yard par-4 fourth hole, stuck a long iron about 20 feet past the hole and made birdie.

Two pars followed and, as Moon missed two par-saving putts of less than 3 feet, the two were tied coming to 18.

The 284-yard uphill par 4 invited a big drive and Thomas hit it, leaving the ball 20 yards from the front edge in the right rough. Moon's second, from the other side of the fairway, left her with a 20-foot putt.

Thomas, who left a pitch-and-run well short on 11, didn't this time, getting the ball to release to within 3 feet, below the cup.

"I picked a good time to hit my best chip of the day," Thomas said.

After Moon was short on her birdie attempt, Thomas stepped up and dunked the winner.

"I really had no idea I had won until I walked off to the scorers' table," she said. "Coach Grafos told me. I had no idea actually.

"My math skills weren't really kicking in right there."

No matter. Her golf skills had.

•••

• That's it for this afternoon. There are Washington state championships all weekend, so follow them here.




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Vince Grippi





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