FORT LORAMIE — There might not be much of an appreciation among the population of just how difficult it is for a high school golfer to qualify for the State Golf Championship.
This year when the Division 2 girls gathered for the district tournament in Miamisburg, only three teams and three individuals not on a qualifying team advanced. And that’s out of 72 hopefuls.
So for Fort Loramie junior Emily Knouff to be getting ready to compete in Columbus this week is quite an achievement.
Knouff, who over the summer was the Shelby County Women’s Open champion, among other accomplishments, will tee off Friday morning at 10:20 at the Ohio State Gray Course in Columbus. The tournament will be both Friday and Saturday.
It will be Knouff’s second trip to the state championship. She qualified as a freshman, but was unable to make it out of the district last season as a sophomore. And her coach, Mike Anthony, said she was understandably disappointed.
“It was disappointing, but she went in with a little more pressure last year after making it as a freshman,” he said. “After her freshman year, she was thinking she had to qualify all four years. But she handled it well. She knew she didn’t play well and she knew she didn’t deserve to go last year, and she went with that attitude.”
Knouff has been in a class by herself in girls golf around the area this season. She tops the area leaderboard for both nine and 18 holes, with scores of 32 and 69. The 69 is 11 strokes better than anyone else has shot this season.
After getting out of a tough district, Anthony said Knouff faces less pressure this week, even though it’s the state tournament.
“I think there was definitely more pressure last week than there will be this week,” he said. “It’s getting there that’s tough. There was a girl from Eaton last week who’s been playing against the boys all season and won some tournaments. And she didn’t make it out. Now it’s ‘OK, I’m here’ and let’s just have fun.”
Anthony said she’s quite a different golfer than the one who played at state two years ago.
“She’s a little bigger and stronger, and hits it a lot farther,” said Anthony, who will be taking a player to the state tournament for the seventh time in his 19 years of coaching. “And her short game is much better. Mainly, though, her mental game is better. She’s really mentally tough and nothing bothers her, because a lot of times it’s all in the way you handle it because you’re going to have some bad shots.
“If anyone deserves to go, it’s Emily,”Anthony continued. “She is constantly at Shelby Oaks. She’s in the post-secondary program, so she takes a couple classes here and then goes to Edison, and from there she heads to Shelby Oaks. It’s amazing. And during the winter, she hits inside at the Oaks. But as soon as the course opens, if there isn’t snow on the ground, she’ll be out there.”
Anthony and Knouff are at the course today for a practice round.
“She’s familiar with the course,” he said. “She played in a tournament there this summer. I wouldn’t say it’s tougher than normal, but it’s a little longer and there are some difficult holes. The par-3s are much longer than they are around here and that makes it more challenging.
“It’s tough to compare scores from other districts because all these girls are coming from different courses,” he continued. “And a lot of girls who were there as freshmen are there again. She played a lot of them over the summer and had success, so I think she has a shot at playing very well.”
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818