Best of the best

COLUMBUS She couldn’t decide what was worse: the nerves during her second round of play or waiting for the final scores to come in.

The only question for Lakota’s Makayla Dull after her 3-over 73 on Saturday in the Division II Girls State Golf Tournament at the Ohio State University’s Gray Course was whether the junior finished first or runner-up.

Nearly two hours after Dull finished her round she got the words she’d been waiting to hear since this weekend a year ago: state champion.

“I’m very happy for myself. I’ve been working very hard and I’ve been putting a lot of time into it and my coach has been helping me a lot,” Dull said. “I’m very, very happy. I’m speechless. I don’t know how to describe how I feel. It’s tremendous.”

In a day where many of the scores were higher than Friday’s first round, Dull did exactly what she did just a day earlier: lead the field.

While it wasn’t the sub-par 69 she shot on day one, her 3-over 73 featured no birdies, just three bogeys and all pars outside of that.

“I’m very proud of her obviously. I’m super excited for her,” Lakota coach Chad Garberich said. “I give her crap all the time about not putting enough work in but she’s truly a girl that puts in more work than anyone I’ve ever worked with and cares more. I couldn’t be more happy and excited for her to reach a goal that we always talked about.”

The girl she was waiting for was Tippecanoe’s Lindsey Murray, who carded an even-par 70 Friday to keep her a stroke back of Dull.

However, the state tourney doesn’t operate like many other golf tournaments. Since Murray had qualified as part of a team, she was among the team pairings. On top of that, her group teed off the day from No. 10, unlike Dull who teed off on No. 1.

That fact was part of the reason the drama was drawn out for so long as No. 9 is at the very back of the course.

“The wait for sure was more (nerve-racking for her). But the whole day she was nervous for whatever reason,” Garberich said. “So I continued to talk the entire time to her (during her round). I always try to joke and get her laughing. Today I didn’t shut up one time just to get her mind off what was at stake. I thought after one or two pars, she’d be fine but that wasn’t the case.”

She surfed that wave of nervousness through bogeys on No. 1 and No. 4 and then settled down with six straight pars. Her tee shot on the par-3 No. 11 landed in the front right bunker. She blasted out but just to the rough of the green. She chipped from there and ball lipped out around the flag leaving her with a tap in bogey. From there it was cruise control with seven straight pars.

“I’m never nervous the night before a tournament and I’m usually nervous on my first shot. But after my first shot, I still had the nerves,” Dull said. “But my coach did a really good job of keeping me calm and stuff. He really helped. If we couldn’t talk to coaches, I don’t know (what would have happened). He helps me so much.”

Then waiting game began. When it approached an hour, Garberich decided he was done being patient. He got into his car and drove to the back of the course and tried to catch up with Murray. When he tracked her down, he happened upon Murray’s mother, who was tracking her daughter’s score.

“I walked up to her mom and asked her ‘How’s your daughter doing?’ ‘Oh she’s sort of struggling,’ (she replied) and right then I give a little fist pump next to my side,” Garberich said. “She asks me ‘Are you from the Tipp City community?’ I said ‘well, actually I’m Lakota’s coach.'”

Murray’s mother asked how Dull did and when Garberich told her Dull fired a 73, the mother reply was what sealed the deal for Garberich.

“‘Oh she’s got nothing to worry about then. She’s like five or six over,’ (she said) and I’m doing fist pumps by my side while trying to stay level keel next to her,” Garberich said.

Murray finished with a 7-over 77, which was good enough for runner-up.

“About hole 13 or 14, I was (counting) how many over in my head I was. ‘I was like three, so that’s 73 and that’s the spot (I needed to be at),” Dull said. “After the round, I was trying to hear what Lindsey was doing because she was the only other person I had to wait for. Everyone was like, ‘She’s like 3-over but she always finds a way to come back.'”

The team title went to Gates Mills Hawken with a two-day 668, which started the day five strokes back of Dayton Chaminade-Julienne. Dover edged DCJ by a stroke, 679-680, after trailing the day one leaders by 17 strokes.

Dull becomes the first player in the area to win a state golf tourney since Mohawk’s Kiki Corliss in 1993 in the state’s first girls golf tournament.

It was Dull’s third trip to the state tourney and her third All-Ohio honor. She was second-team All-Ohio her freshman year with a tie for 10th while tying for fifth as sophomore and garnering first-team honors.

So where does a state champion go from here with a year left to go in high school?

Attempt to get back to the podium.

The junior will attempt to become just the fourth girl in state history to win back-to-back titles.