CABOT - The Benton Lady Panther golf team won the 6A South conference and took second in the State on Tuesday and Wednesday at Greystone Country Club in Cabot.
Greenwood took the 6A State Title by shooting a 559 with Benton following with a 579, and Jonesboro (583), Marion (583) and Searcy (587) rounding out the top five.
“Everybody played good,” Benton Coach Chad Pitts said of his players. “Grace (Lile) led us. She was in contention to win the whole thing and ended up getting beat by three strokes. She placed second as an individual overall and she qualifies to get to play in overalls (tournament) at Pleasant Valley in a few weeks.”
The senior Lile shot an 82 the first day and a 5-over 77, which was the lowest score of the tournament, on the second day.
Senior Kayla Payne shot a 108 the first day of the tournament, but improved by 10 strokes on Day 2 with a 98. Along with Lile and Payne, senior Kaylon Presnall shot a 106 and 110 for the Lady Panther scores which counted. Senior Daphne Bono (120, 119) and junior Karli Lipinski (121, 118) each came in with a score of 236.
“On Tuesday before the tournament,” Pitts started, “I told the girls, 'Let's worry about us winning conference first and then we'll worry about state the second day.’ They won conference by 10 strokes on Tuesday. But going in to the second day, we were fourth overall.
“That morning I told the girls we need to improve by 10 or 12 strokes and then have to wait and see, and we did. We improved 10 strokes from the first day, but Greenwood also improved and they won it all.”
The first day of the state tournament decided the conference winner and the second day gave the state champion.
“I was really proud of the girls,” Pitts said. “Greystone is a very, very tough course and a lot of the scores were up. But, I think us not letting that bother us and playing; I tell the girls all the time to play hole by hole. Every hole you go to is a new hole. I think by us doing that we were able to not let a hole bother us.
“That course has tough greens. It was just a tough setup. It was physically taxing too to have to walk it two days in a row because it was so hilly. [The Lady Panthers] just fought through all those conditions.”
With Lile’s second-place overall finish, she advanced to the state overall tournament which will be held at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock on Oct. 11.
“I'm extremely happy for Grace” Pitts said. “It's been her goal for three or four years to be able to make it to the overall and she was able to do that this year.”
The Benton boys’ state will be on Monday and Tuesday at El Dorado Country Club.
“I think we have a shot to win conference,” Pitts said of the boys. “Our conference is so close. It's played at El Dorado so of course it's at their home course. They'll be tough to beat. Lake Hamilton has three really solid players. They're not going to shoot under par, but they're not going to shoot over 80 either. They're going to be in the 70s and going to be consistent.”
The Panthers will be led by seniors Austin Eoff, Keith Hammer and Cameron Treece.
“I think us, Lake Hamilton and El Dorado will be the top three,” Pitts said. “The team to beat in boys (regardless of conference) is Jonesboro. They won it last year and they had everybody come back. They should be the favorite this year. But, we'll give it everything we have and see what happens.”