Lady Blue Flame claim first AAA state golf crown

Pictured, from left, are Pickens High School principal Marion Lawson, Lauren Harkins, Lilly Turner, Claire Page, PHS coach Frank Sullivan, Maddy Cox and Morgan Cox.

LONGS — The Pickens Lady Blue Flame golf team posted a two-day score of 660 to run away with the 2013 AAA state championship on Oct. 29 at Black Bear Golf Club.

The Blue Flame defeated second-place Greenville by 19 strokes. Led by senior Maddy Cox’s two-under par 70 and sophomore Morgan Cox’s 79, Pickens took a commanding 18-stroke lead after the first day. Senior Claire Page carded an 82, and junior Lilly Turner’s 90 rounded out a strong team score of 322.

“We felt pretty good about having an 18-stroke lead going into the second day, but we knew we would have to play solidly to hold the lead,” Blue Flame coach Frank Sullivan said. “Greenville, St. James, Daniel, and Wren all were within striking distance if we stumbled.”

In the final round, the Blue Flame golfers all found trouble on the front nine, and the team struggled. In the end, the Flame posted a final round score of 338, which was good enough for Pickens’ first-ever girls’ golf State Championship.

Greenville, which had tied Pickens in the Upper State qualifier with a team score of 318, shot a final round of 335, but could only make up three of the 22 shots they trailed by at the beginning of the day. The Daniel Lions, who started the day in second place, shot a final round score of 347 to finish in fourth place. St. James finished third.

Maddy Cox was the silver medalist, posting a two-day score of 148, which earned her All-State designation. Cox has also been selected to participate in the SC North-South All-Star matches, to be held next week.

Sullivan had high praise for Cox, who has committed to play for Converse College next year.

“Maddy has been our most consistent golfer all year,” he said. “She is a very deserving member of the All-State team as well as the North–South Team.”

Cox said it was special to be a part of her school’s first state championship.

“We have worked very hard the past year, and it is nice to have all the hard work pay off,” said Cox. “As a senior, I couldn’t be more blessed with a better group of girls, coaches and parents around this team.”

The state championship capped a near-perfect season for the Blue Flame. Pickens posted a 19-0 record in regular season matches and won two of the three tournaments in which they played.

After winning the Laurens Invitational and the Wren Invitational, the Blue Flame settled for fourth place in the Easley Invitational, finishing behind eventual AAAA State Champion Lexington, AAAA power Wade Hampton and rival Greenville.

“This is an extremely talented group of young golfers,” said Sullivan, in his second year leading the Lady Blue Flame. “But they are also outstanding young ladies, in every respect. I could not be more proud of this group.”

Senior Claire Page reflected on the team’s accomplishments.

“It is great to have finally achieved our goals,” she said. “We have worked so hard for many years to get to where we are today. Our team is more like a family. We push each other to get better.”

As the Blue Flame bask in the glory of their first state title, many are already looking ahead to next season. Pickens will lose seniors Maddy Cox and Page, a Limestone College commitment, but will return a solid nucleus of Morgan Cox, Turner and Lauren Harkins. Members of this year’s squad who will compete for playing time next year include sophomore Bradlee Moon, freshmen Morgan Stephens and Baylee Stewart, eighth grader Kyla Kay, and seventh graders Sarah Page, Rachel Page, and Mary Grace Wooten.

“All seven of these girls joined the team for the first time this year, and they have all made good progress,” Sullivan said. “They know the torch is being passed, and I am anxious to see which girls will accept the challenge to get better and really work to improve.”