Lexington High golfer Lauren Stephenson pulled off an unprecedented double Tuesday at the Class 4A boys state golf championship.
Already a five-time girls golf all-state selection, Stephenson earned boys all-state honors with a fifth-place individual finish at the Furman University course, shooting rounds of 73-74 for a 3-over total of 147.
With Stephenson playing No. 1, the Lexington boys team shot a two-day score of 615 and also placed fifth in the state. Her 147 led the Wildcats, and her finish put her on the 10-golfer all-state team.
A senior at Lexington who will play at Clemson in the fall, Stephenson already had led the girls team to three consecutive 4A state titles and won the state individual titles in 2013 and 2014.
“I wanted to make (boys) all-state; that was the goal that I set,” Stephenson said. “I knew that I could play well enough to make all-state, and it’s definitely an exciting way to finish my high school golf.”
According to S.C. High School League records, no girl has earned all-state honors in the boys golf state championship since at least 2001. Records prior to then were not available.
“I was there when we started girls golf, and I’ve been running it ever since and I don’t remember any other girl doing it,” said Dru Nix, the League’s associate commissioner in charge of boys and girls golf.
“Our top girls could definitely play on the boys’ teams, but to make all-state (in the girls and boys tournaments) is taking it to a whole new level,” Nix said.
The High School League allows for girls to play on boys golf teams when there is no girls team available, or when the girls team has a season with eight or fewer matches.
Three other girls qualified to play in golf state championships this week — Carley Livers shot 79-82 for St. Joseph’s in the Class A final, Lancaster’s Baylee Evans shot 82-81 in the Class 3A match and Sarina Sonata, of West Florence, shot 78-77 as an individual competitor at the Class 4A match.
Stephenson joined the Lexington boys team for the first time in 2014. She placed 20th in the state championship and helped the Wildcats place third. She had the team’s second-best score.
This year, as the team’s leader, Stephenson was motivated to improve.
“It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed playing No. 1. It gives me a lot of confidence and makes me practice and play better. Boys golf is just a lot of competition because they’re all so good and they hit a lot further than me,” she said.
And with the goal of making all-state, Stephenson was undaunted.
“I hit it a lot better this year than I did last year, and I think the experience helped,” Stephenson said.
“The length at the Furman course gave her a harder time last year, but this year she handled it better,” Lexington coach Brandon Smith said. “Minus missing a few putts that she could have made, her score could have been even better. She had a good day.”
Stephenson won the AJGA Girls Championship, the Wells Fargo Junior Classic and the WSCGA Junior Girls’ State Championship in 2014, a year in which she had no finishes below 23rd. She also finished ninth in the junior PGA Championship and made it to the round of 32 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and round of 16 at the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst. She has qualified for the U.S. Girls Junior Championship three times.
"Lauren is, without question, one of best players in the country, as is proven with her accomplishments and ranking," Clemson coach J.T. Horton said. "Lauren has an amazing calmness when she plays the game, with an uncanny ability to shoot low scores. She is extremely talented, and her confidence is contagious."
Trent Phillips shot a 6-under 138 to win the individual championship and lead Boiling Springs (595) to its second consecutive 4A boys state championship.
Edge Motley was second on the Lexington team with a two-day total of 153. Eighth grader Dillon Hite (156) and junior Nicholas Beiers (159) lead a group of six players who will be the foundation for the Wildcats’ team next season.
“We’re certainly going take our finish today and look to continue to build off of it,” Smith said. “With six out of nine golfers returning next year, and all of them capable of shooting in the 70s, the future is bright.”