The Lexington Wildcats saved their best round of the season for the last round of the season.
The Wildcats reclaimed their place on top of the South Carolina AAAAA girls classification with a 32 shot victory in the state championship at the Country Club of Lexington, the teams home course.
Lexington took a comfortable 11 shot lead over the defending champions from Blythewood into the final round.
Led by medalist Molly Hardwick the Wildcats posted their first under par round of the season by playing the final 18 holes at 5-under 283.
“We expected to have a good year this year,” said Lexington coach Brandon Smith. “Shooting under par was a little bit of a surprise, but we had been playing really well coming into the tournament,” added the coach.
While the entire team was playing well Molly Hardwick was playing exceptional golf. Smith could not remember her making a bogey in her last four or five tournaments.
“Molly didn’t just play well today she has been on a roll for more than a month. I think she made her first bogey in five tournaments today,” said her coach.
Hardwick shot a second day total of 6-under par 66 to catch and pass first round leader Adrian Anderson from St. James. Her 2-round total of 137 was just one shot off the individual tournament record.
Former Lexington state champion golfer Lauren Stephenson shot a 136 total in 2014 before going on to become the national college golfer of the year in 2018 at Alabama.
The Wildcats had a string of three straight state titles interrupted when Blythewood won the championship last year and getting the title back was the mission for the season.
A big part of the Wildcats success was the return to competition of Isabella Rawl who missed last year with an injury.
The 2018 AAAAA individual champ shot a 4-under par 68 to tie Anderson for second place and help her team reclaim the championship.
“It was really hard to watch Blythewood win last year,” said Rawl. “It gave us the motivation we needed this year on our home course, it was really exciting,” she said.
Hardwick was convinced having a former state champion back in the lineup was a difference maker for this year’s team.
“She is an amazing player and she gave me the confidence that if I messed up she had my back,” said the 2020 AAAAA champion.
The Wildcats had won 7 titles in a row between 2004 and 2010. They now have added 7 more state championship in the last nine years to bring their total to 14 titles, the most in South Carolina High School golf.
The prospect of winning a 15th championship will be a little more difficult as the Hardwick family will be moving to Tennessee.
The loss of Molly and her younger sister Ellie along with seniors Karlee Vardas and Emily Beiers will mean the Wildcats will be rebuilding next year.
“We have Rawl and Bella Bernagozzi coming back along with the other girls in the program. It will be different next year, but we are Lexington and we always expect to compete for a state title,” concluded the Wildcats coach.
Byrnes High School finished in third place for their best finish in a state championship. The Rebels were led by Anika Rana who finished 11th.
St James and Wando rounded out the top five.
All State honors were won by Hardwick, Rawl, Vardas and Beiers from Lexington as well as Adrian Anderson from St. James, Paige Paolucci and Ella Stalvey from Blythewood, Sarah Boteler from J.L. Mann, Nicole Whatley from Wando, and MK Talledo from Boiling Springs.