UIL state golf titles worth the wait

May, 15, 2010
5/15/10
9:29
PM CT
How does a golfer respond to a five-hour rain delay in the final round of the UIL State Championship?

If you are Colleyville Heritage’s Mercedes Rios, you go par-birdie-par and win the biggest tournament of your life.

“There are so many great girls golfers in Texas,’’ said Rios, back home on Saturday. “It still hasn’t hit me.’’

When Rios needs to verify she isn‘t dreaming, she only has to look at the first-place medal on her dresser. She followed up a first-day par round of 72 with a 36 on nine holes Friday at the Jimmy Clay Golf Course in Austin.

Rios won the tournament, shortened from 36 to 27 holes, by one stroke.

Marissa Dodd of Allen and Casey Grice of A&M Consolidated, the 2008 state champion, tied for second.

Rios was a stroke over par after six holes when play was halted.

“I stayed in the pavilion and talked to my parents and friends for a couple of hours,’’ Rios said. “The last three hours were the longest of my life. Golf is all about feel and when you’ve been sitting for that long, you don’t know what you’re going to do.’’

All season long, Rios drew strength from her practice routine. She spent hours working at the Jim McLean Golf Center in Fort Worth until the eye of instructor Justin Poynter.

“I’ve always put in the hours, but after not playing well last year, I changed the way I practiced this year,’’ she said.

Colleyville Heritage coach Terie Campbell said Rios wisely was satisfied to hit greens in regulation rather than gamble at risky pin placements.

Rios, who has signed with Dallas Baptist University, said a practice-round pairing on Wednesday with boys 5A co-champion Jordan Spieth was a good omen.

Spieth, a junior at Dallas Jesuit and the defending champion, shot 68-35 to tie Houston Memorial’s Cory Whitsett (69-34) at 103. Whitsett, an Alabama signee, won the individual title as a sophomore in 2008.

Thomas Birdsey of Southlake Carroll was third at 105.

Spieth, the No. 1 ranked junior in the nation, has accepted the first amateur invitation in 15 years for next week's HP Byron Nelson Championship. Spieth has orally committed to Texas.

Austin Westlake swept the boys and girls team titles. Allen was runner-up by seven shots on the girls side. Southlake Carroll was 14 shots back in second-place for the boys and Mansfield was fourth, three shots behind the Dragons.

Kaufman's Chantry McMahan, who had never finished out of top five in three previous state tournaments, capped her high school career by winning the Class 3A girls individual title by five strokes with scores of 71-36 at the Roy Kizer course. She has signed with Texas A&M-Commerce.

Prosper finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 3A boys and girls team competition.

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