Girls Golfer of the Year
by Aaron Garcia
Through the first 16 holes of the 3A Western Regional tournament in Asheville, Marvin Ridge girls golfer Rachel Walker didn’t add up her scores. She thought she was close enough to her playing partner that she didn’t want the undo pressure. Not yet.
Then, she birdied the 17th hole. Finally, she allowed herself to do the math.
“I was so nervous (after I figured out I had the lead),” said Walker, last year’s Union County Weekly Girls Golfer of the Year. “I skulled one across the green on 18. My dad (Brian) could tell I was shaking.
“I think I bogeyed that last one.”
By then, it didn’t matter, as Walker had built up enough of a lead to withstand the errant putt and win the regional title with an 81, three strokes ahead of runner-up Payton Culler of West Henderson. The win also propelled her Marvin Ridge team to its first regional title.
The success continued the following week, when Walker’s two-day total of 169 was good for sixth at the Class 3A state tournament. And again, the Mavs prospered behind her effort, finishing fourth as a team.
But it wasn’t the postseason alone that earned Walker the title of Union County Weekly’s 2011 Girls Golfer of the Year. During the regular season, Walker averaged 40.4 strokes per nine holes and set a new personal 18-hole record with a 77 at the Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference tournament, earning her a third consecutive conference Player of the Year award. She also added her third regular-season conference title after beating the field by 21 strokes.
It was a fitting end to a career that changed the face of Union County girls golf.
“She is the founding member of the Marvin Ridge golf program,” said coach Aaron Hammers. “She was the first girl to contact us about playing.”
Before Walker’s freshman year, there was no Marvin Ridge girls golf team. Heck, the school had only been open for one year at that point. But after Walker showed the initial interest, Hammers agreed to coach the team, and the rest is Marvin Ridge history.
But Walker is glad she saved her best for last.
“It was a very successful year this year, compared to the other years,” said the four-time state qualifier, who plans to be a walk-on player at James Madison University next year. “I felt like I played more to my potential this year.”