Monday, October 1, 2012
- by B.B. Branton
“Jenna works so hard at her game that I have to run her off the practice tee ... she is the best golfer SAS has had in well over a decade -- boy or girl.”
-- St.Andrews-Sewanee golf coach Dan Hatfield
MANCHESTER - Jenna Burris has taken on high school male golfers for the past six weeks – winning medalist honors in 16 of 18 prep matches – and now she is battling high school girls for the D-II A individual state championship here at WillowBrook Golf Club Monday and Tuesday.
Shooting a 75 (41-34) on Day 1 of the state championship, the 17-year-old junior from St.Andrews-Sewanee School finds herself in a three-way tie for second – along with Rachel Johnson, Franklin Road Academy and Sara Garmezy, Univ. School Nashville – one shot back of leader Nicole Page (Fr., Franklin Road Academy).
At 10:20 a.m. (EDT) Tuesday, Burris will also find herself in a star-studded foursome that includes defending state champion Garmezy (39-36--75) and current tourney leader Page (36-38--74). Johnson (37-38--75) is in the following foursome, teeing off at 10:40 a.m.
Page, a freshman, will be trying to replace Garmezy, a senior, on the top of the medal stand on Tuesday afternoon as the state’s best in D-II A, while Burris, whose 72 in the recent region tournament, was the lowest of all D-II A state qualifiers, hopes to be in the mix coming down the back nine.
Burris - the only girl golfer at SAS, thus playing for the boys team during the regular season - has a sparkling links resume highlighted by Tennessee Golf Association player of the year honors this past summer winning two tournaments and twice more on the All-American Junior Golf Tour.
The 6-1 long-ball hitting Burris hopes her strength off the tee – a consistent 270 yards – and familiarity at WillowBrook will be a plus for her on Tuesday.
Not only is WillowBrook the SAS home course, Burris’s dad, David (who played golf at McMinn County HS in 1985-86), owns the course.
“Jenna is an amazing young lady and a very determined golfer,” said SAS golf coach Dan Hatfield who noted that the SAS honors student is so long and consistent off the tee against the boys that most of the time she hits last on second shots.
“She works so hard at her game that I have to run her off the practice tee. Jenna is the best golfer SAS has had in more than a decade, boy or girl.”
Two-Year Hiatus: Burris played in her first state tournament in 2009 as an eighth grader tying for 8th (85-86—171) – Garmezy was fourth (161) and Johnson was 13th (176) – but then took two years off from the sport to play volleyball and basketball for SAS.
“I began playing golf seven years ago and played 36 holes a day nearly year round for two years to see how good I could be,” said Burris whose resume shows a hole-in-one at Black Creek Mountain Golf Course near Chattanooga and a career low of 68 at WillowBrook.
“But after playing in the state tournament three years ago I needed a break.”
Last year she realized that her best chance at a NCAA D-I college scholarship would be chasing the little white ball for 18 holes rather than in any other sport.
“I picked up the clubs this past February after basketball season and shot an 88-72—160 in my first tournament of the spring and received the Edward Jones award for most improved score in one tournament.”
She had a little slump at the end of the summer after winning four times, but with a solid fall season and a 75 on Monday on her home course has her in a good position to win it all.
“I have an attitude of never giving up, never backing down and fighting to the end,” stated Burris.
With five golfers (including Sam Burrus of FRA, 42-36--78) within five shots of each other come Tuesday’s start time, winning the final few holes and the state golf medal could be decided by the one who best handles the pressure, comes up with key shots and fights to the end.
Contact B.B. Branton at William.firstname.lastname@example.org