It wasn't her day to begin with, and Sarah Schmelzel's forte, her leadership, wobbled from within.
Approach shots were wayward. Putts weren't falling. And the only Xavier senior and state tournament-experienced golfer who was trying to push her team back atop the championship step was stumbling.
After ending Xavier's 12-year championship streak in 2010, Hamilton was in hot pursuit again, and a front-nine to forget (by her standards) led to an emotional release at the turn.
"I wasn't playing well and put too much pressure on myself," she said.
Her wits returned, and not a hole too soon. After she feared her 10th tee shot was lost, it was instead in a clearing. She hit an approach shot onto the green and nailed a 25-foot putt for birdie.
Schmelzel was back, and so were the Gators.
Her final-round 66 was the fourth-best round in state tournament history, and Schmelzel led four other youngens to the school's 29th golf state championship.
She also won the individual title with that final-round 66 (six birdies, one bogey), and it's a good thing for her she went that low. Hamilton's Kyung Kim, who won the 2010 individual championship, fired a 69-70-139 and finished two shots behind Schmelzel as the two played together in the final round.
"Kim is such a great player, and I knew she was right up there," Schmelzel said. "I thought the key hole was the later in the match. I birdied No. 10, and once that happened, I thought I was on my way."
She also took second place at the difficult Aguila Invitational to lead the Gators' team victory and fourth place at Antigua to accompany a 9-hole average of 34 for the season.
To some, however, her leading of a junior, sophomore and two freshman, however, was equally impressive.
"She was a second or third coach," Gators coach Sister Lynn Winsor said.
Sometimes it was vocal orwith a nudge, but effective.
Wanting to see another part of the country, Schmelzel (who's also an honors student) is headed to the University of South Carolina for golf next fall.
But her exhibition of skills in the past year has set herself up nicely inside or outside the ropes.
"I like having responsibility and facing pressure," she said. "We rallied together and that was the best part."
All-Tribune First Team
Name School Yr. Comment
Abbie Cantwell Cactus Shadows Fr. Considered top player in NE Valley by season's end, capped with runner-up individual finish in the Div. II tournament (75-73-148)
Kyung Kim Hamilton Sr. 2010 ind. and team champion took 2nd ind. at state this year with 69-70-139 and won Antigua Invitational by four shots; USC-bound
Jacquie LeMarr Chaparral Sr. 2009 champion in 5A-II won Aguila Invite and was 3rd in Div. I with 70-71-141; won Discus Award for athletics, academics and community service
Alexa Schendelman Highland Sr. Took 6th Place in Division I after 34.39 9-Hole scoring average and 8-0-1 record in regular season individual matches at the No. 1 spot; Headed to Oregon State
Sarah Schmelzel Xavier Sr. Tribune POY won individual and team state championships while leading four inexperienced teammates in a close finish
Darian Spivey Mountain Pointe Sr. Top golfer with a scoring average of 36 for nine holes, she won the Tempe City Invitational and the Tempe Union High School Tournament before an 8th-place finish at state.
Player of the Year: Sarah Schmelzel, Xavier
Coach of the Year: Lynn Winsor, Xavier: Helped Schmelzel lead a bunch of tournament newbies to the state championship, and at times stayed on the side to allow her senior captain to be that guide for the freshman and sophomores.
All-Tribune Second Team
Name School Yr. Comment
Mikayla Harmon Hamilton Jr. Prospective leader for 2012 nearly brought Hamilton back against Xavier with 69 in final round of state; finished 4th overall in Div. I tournament
Jill Harvison Mtn. View Sr. 9-time medalist placed 13th as an individual at state after 9-hole average of just under 36
Madison Kerley Xavier Fr. Part of big future with Gators after first-round leader of Div. I state tournament (68) wound up tied for fifth place
Kassidy Long-Goheen Desert Vista Sr. Four-year starter and 6-time medalist finished 10th in state and runner-up at Tempe City tournament; Playing at Idaho next year.
Kelsie Sanborn Notre Dame Sr. Leader of eight underclassmen finished eighth in Div. II in Saints' runner-up finish to cap terrific golf/tennis career.
Charatta Thongbai Dobson Jr. Placed third in this year's Mesa City tournament; All-City and All-Section player capped with 9th place finish in Division I state tournament
Arcadia: Anika Carlson, Jr.
Basha: Brittany Bickley, Sr.
Campo Verde: Kim Cifuentes, Jr.
Chandler: Jacquelyn Porman, Jr.
Chaparral: Sarah Kaye, Jr.
Corona del Sol: Haile Carpenter, So.; Brooke Taylor, Sr.
Desert Ridge: Miranda Reyes, So.
Desert Vista: Cady Espinoza, Jr.
Hamilton: Saki Iida, Jr.
Horizon: Kaila Jacobi, Fr.; Haley Sauls, Sr.; Mariola Szmit, Fr.
Marcos de Niza: Clarissa Collins, Jr.
Notre Dame: Riley Corona, Fr.; Sarah Eversman, So.; Mollie Hughes, So.; Ciara Petronzio, Fr.
Pinnacle: Gabby Bautista, So.; Kaylee Knadler, So.; Megan Knadler, So.
Queen Creek: Shay Fullmer, Sr.; McKayla Hull, So.
Red Mountain: Kaitlyn Saum, So.
Scottsdale Christian: Hannah Gerald, Jr.; Paisley Muller, Jr.
Seton Catholic: Anna Schwab, Jr.
Xavier: Ariana Macioce, Fr.; Anne Straneva, Jr.
Memorable moments from the 2011 season
• Back on top: The bubble burst a bit in 2010 when Hamilton ended Xavier's reign of 12 consecutive big-school state championships, but the extremely youthful Gators got right back on the podium. Desite one returning golfer with state tournament experience (Sarah Schmelzel) leading a junior, sophomore and two freshman, Xavier re-claimed the Division I crown by four shots over the Huskies. Madison Kerley fired a 68 in the opening round and Schmelzel fired a 66 in the final round to win the individual championship.
• One-team race: With both Division I and II golfers playign the same course, the individuals' scoring gap between divisions wasn't nearly as wide as on the boys side, but Salpointe Catholic dominated Div. II. Kelsie Sanborn led a young Notre Dame squad (third-place finishers in 2010 and state champions as a 4A-II school in 2009 and 2008) to a second-place finish, but 88 shots back. Cactus Shadows finished fourth, as freshman Abbie Cantwell earned POY nominations for her second-place finish (75-73-148) and superb play in the season's final few weeks.