MOUNT STERLING —
Boyd County waited a long time for its first girls high school regional golf champion.
McKinzie Walters, who just became a teenager, could experience the feeling several times before she graduates.
The eighth-grader’s round of 89 on a beautiful Tuesday was good for a two-shot victory in the Region 11 Tournament at tough Old Silo Golf Club.
“Kinzi is something else,” Boyd County coach Kelli Garvin said. “To accomplish this at her age, it’s astounding.”
Garvin felt the thrill every bit as much as Walters. In 2007, the former Boyd County golfer was region runner-up to three-time champion Kaci Boyd of Russell.
“Whenever I got second, I knew Kaci was going to win,” Garvin recalled. “She was amazing. Watching McKinzie today was an unbelievable feeling. To win as an eighth-grader shows she has four more years of these to go. It blows my mind. I’ve seen her blossom from last year to this year as a golfer and a person.”
Walters established herself as one of the favorites coming into Tuesday. She won high school invitationals at Sandy Creek and Hidden Cove this season, as well as turning in a top-five finish among about 100 golfers at Powell County’s tournament.
Old Silo, which opened in 2000, hosted its first high school regional. Walters played 18 holes there Saturday as a warm-up.
“It let me know what the holes were like,” she said. “It’s a challenging course.”
Walters said the rough was troublesome and she hit “two or three” out of bounds, but managed to keep her round together. The highlight was a birdie on par-3 No. 7, where Walters put her tee shot within about a foot of the hole.
“I’m happy,” she said after becoming likely the youngest player to win the regional tournament. “I knew that I could do it.”
So did her coach.
“Kinzi has natural talent, but works for it, too, and plays smart,” Garvin said. “Her personality is good, too. Maybe it’s where she is so young that things don’t bother her.”
Rowan County’s Taylor Kendrick and Montgomery County’s Janie Wise tied for second with 91s. Kendrick received the runner-up trophy in a playoff that lasted three holes.
Kendrick, a sophomore, led Rowan County past defending team champion Greenup County in a squeaker — 375-376. Both teams move on to the State Tournament.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Kendrick after the Lady Vikings won their first regional title in 23 years. “This is a really hard course. It was nerve-racking for all of us.”
Rowan County prevailed despite missing No. 3 player Alexandria Northcutt due to sickness. Allison Fletcher shot 93, Emma Marriner 94 and Allie McKenzie 97 to back Kendrick.
“We set this as a goal three years ago,” Lady Vikings coach Bill Brock said. “What a finish, winning by one. I tell the girls all the time about the value of every stroke. Today it proved out.”
Greenup County’s top four included: Megan Mulkey 93; Madison Crump 94; Kristen Crum 94; and Abby Dowdy 95.
“George (Burney) has done a fantastic job with them,” Brock said of the Lady Musketeers’ first-year head coach who succeeded Lou Quillen.
Walters, Wise and Morgan County’s Morgan Markwell (92) earned the top three individual qualifying spots for the State Tournament. The fourth came down to a playoff, with Russell sophomore Baylee Salyers defeating Fairview’s Amber Greene on the first extra hole.
“This is going to be my first State Tournament,” Salyers said “I’m pretty happy. I’m very grateful to get to experience it.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.