COLUMBUS — As the final threesome of the day teed off at the OHSAA’s 12th annual Girls Division II Golf State Tournament Friday afternoon, the starter at the No. 1 tee said, “Good luck, girls.”
Then stopped and had to be reminded only two of the three had hit their drives.
He forgot Gabby Woods.
She won’t be forgotten again.
The Clinton-Massie senior matched the 18-hole Division I and II state records with a 67 Friday on the Gray Course at Ohio State University and has the lead after 18 holes.
Jami Morris of Shaker Heights Laurel is one back at 2-under par while Hanna Shrout of Proctorville Fairland is two back at 1-under par.
“I still have work to do,” said Woods after her round. “I’ll try to mentally prepare myself.”
Sarah Willis of Eaton in Div. II and Madison Spiess of New Albany in Div. I had 67s in 2017 in the state tournament. Willis set a 36-hole record at 4-under par 136 in 2016.
Woods played extremely well on a gorgeous day for golf. She had just two shots that could be considered “not good” but nothing in the bad category.
“Look out here,” she said, turning and looking back toward the No. 18 tee box. “It’s beautiful. What more can you ask for. I’m happy to be here … thankful to be here.”
Early in her round, Woods was unable to hit the fairway with her driver.
“I still had good shots to the green, so why wouldn’t I hit it,” she said. “I was still confident in my driver.”
Her short game saved several shots early in the round. She made a 12-foot putt on 5 to save par then scrambled to save par on 8 and remain even.
“Eight straight pars?” she said. “I’m ecstatic at that point.”
At the ninth, a par 4, 305 yards, rated the toughest hole on the Gray Course, Woods hammered a huge drive then ran in a 20-foot putt for birdie to make the turn at 1-under.
“It gave me a boost,” she said.
She birdied the par 5 12th with a big drive and pitch that snuggled up to the cup. Her putter came through again on 13 as she drained a nail-biter from close range to save par.
On 16, Woods pitched in from 25 yards out to go to 3-under and give herself the lead after the first day. Off the green to the right, Woods hit a low runner that hit the collar and shot toward the hole with a good pace.
“I thought if it hits the flag, I’ll be all right,” she said. “And it did.”
If it doesn’t hit the flag, it would have been well beyond the hole and Woods would likely be looking at someone else leading the tournament.
“Better to be lucky than good,” McGraw said.
BY THE NUMBERS: Woods finished with 14 putts on the front side and 13 on the back nine. She hit just four greens in regulation.
“Fairways are overrated,” McGraw quipped during the round.
WEATHER: According to the Weather Channel app, it should be sunny throughout Woods’ round on Saturday with a 9-10 mile per hour wind and a high temperature in the low 50s. No rain is forecast from 9 a.m. through the end of the day.
However, it is expected to rain overnight Friday which could soften the course.
“If the weather toughens, it plays to her advantage,” said McGraw.
BIG STICK: Woods had at least eight drives of 265 yards or more on the day.
SHORT GAME: Woods had several par-saving putts which came as no surprise to McGraw.
“On the practice green, she had the speed down perfect,” he said. “She putted very well today. She missed a couple she could have made but made up for it with a couple longer putts.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wnjsports