Briarwood hosts girls State Am
By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
June 16, 2003
The fourth and final edition of the Mississippi Women's Golf Association Junior Girls State Amateur for Briarwood Country Club to host should be the best one yet.
Each of the champions from the last three years is back, along with many of the challengers.
Amanda Mathis of Picayune won last year's event by 10 strokes over Tupelo's Alexis Rather. Mathis, who also won last year's MWGA women's state am, fired an 11-under par 137 over the 36 holes in last year's junior tournament at Briarwood.
Mathis has signed with Mississippi State, while Rather has inked with LSU. Rather was also the runner-up in the 2001 tournament.
Also in the mix is Meridian's Leigh Phillips, a rising junior at Lamar School.
"I'm kinda nervous, but I'm ready," Phillips said. "I think I can hang with them if I play my game. One of the things that has gotten better since last year is my putting."
Phillips has already gotten the attention of MWGA Junior Girls State Am chairperson Cathy McFerrin of Meridian.
"Our par is 74 out here and Leigh shot a smooth 6-under the other day," McFerrin said.
Also returning after missing the 2002 event is two-time champion Kathryn Jones of Jackson. In 2001, Jones shot a 74-73 147 to nip Rather by a single stroke. Jones also won in 2000.
While this is the fourth and final year for Briarwood to host the event, McFerrin says it's an experience she'll always cherish.
"I've really enjoyed it," McFerrin said. "It's been rewarding for me to see them come back each year and grow and get better. We've had two to sign with major colleges and I think that's really something."
While those girls will be playing in the 16-18 year-old division, the two-day tournament, which gets under way Tuesday morning and concludes on Wednesday, also has groupings for players 13-15 years old and 10-12 years old.
One of the favorites in the 13-15 division should be defending champion Shauna Allen, a rising sophomore at Washington School in Greenville.
Sarah Beth Fouts of Meridian is also in the 13-15 group.
The 10-12 division may have a player with a strong bloodline on the links in Mary Langdon Gallagher, the rising sixth-grade daughter of nine-time MWGA state am champion Cissye Gallagher and PGA Tour golfer Jim Gallagher of Greenwood. A serious illness in the family of one of Cissye's friends may prevent her participation, however, McFerrin said.
Unlike previous years, this year's junior tournament will precede the women's state am.
"This will be a good tune up," McFerrin said. "It's like playing the qualifying round for the state am.
"The course is in great shape. We've had a lot of rain and this may be the first year to have lift, clean, and place.
"I'm looking forward to it."