Northview's Lawson already a veteran as a freshman
A big tournament is always easier the second time around.
That’s the advantage Northview Academy freshman Heidi Lawson had on Tuesday, teeing off in the McNelly-Whaley Sevier County High School Golf Championships for the second time after debuting as an eighth grader last year.
“It was quite scary (last year),” Lawson said. “There were two (eighth graders). I think both of us were very scared because you had these seniors and these juniors and all these upperclassmen and it was like, ‘Oh, hey. How are you?’ It was quite intimidating.”
Lawson shot a 10-over-par 47 at Sevierville Golf Club, just six strokes back of playing partner and defending champion Katelyn Witucki in the tournament’s opening round. Witucki’s score helped Seymour to a 19-stroke lead over second-place Sevier County while Lawson’s Cougars were third. Only the Eagles’ Shelby Stinnett and Caroline Hood had better rounds than Lawson on the girls side with 45s.
Boys defending champ Spencer Cross shot the day’s best round on the front nine of the Highlands Course, firing an even-par 37 for the Smoky Bears. Seymour led there, too, with a 158 which included three of the top five scores. Wesley Jones shot 38, Peyton Pressley had a 39 and Trey Myrick fired a 40. Cross and his defending champion Sevier County teammates enter today’s second round at Creekside Plantation 12 strokes back of Seymour.
“I had a bad stretch but I came back with a birdie (on No. 9),” Cross said. “That felt good because I haven’t birdied or parred nine in the last two matches.”
Tyler Bohanan of Pigeon Forge shot 40 while The King’s Academy got a 41 from Josh Keller and Austin McCarter fired a 43 for Northview. Connor Sise and Terry King led Gatlinburg-Pittman with 48s.
Witucki carded six pars on the day but finished with a double bogey and a bogey on her last two holes. The score was still a five-shot improvement from her last round in Sevierville.
The 47 Lawson finished with may not have been her best round, but the freshman said she was better prepared for this tournament than if she’d played middle school golf a year ago like some of her peers. Cougars coach Jennifer Blanchard, who golfed for Seymour and later at the University of Tennessee, said she wish she had the extra year of experience that both Lawson and teammate Alli Caton got last year playing as eighth graders.
“It means the world,” Blanchard said. “The difference in the scores are the people out here every day practicing without their coaches, who just want to be out here practicing. When you have that extra year of experience, of competition golf, not just middle school or just playing around, but actually competing, it really helps settle your nerves, it helps your mental game and obviously it helps your golf game.”
The pairing with Witucki didn’t hurt either. The girls said they get along well and Blanchard said she saw the two pushing each other shot for shot. It’s all experience Lawson can continue to add to her resume.
“It’s very hard because you see all these people that are older than you and you’re like, ‘Oh I have to be right with them,’ ” Lawson said. “But whenever you think about it, you have three more years.”