It was new champions all around Tuesday afternoon at the 2013 Division II state girls golf tournament at Aguila Golf Course in Laveen.
Cactus Shadows Abbie Cantwell's consistent play over two days netted her the title by one stroke over two-time defending champ Krystal Quihuis of Salpointe. Meanwhile, Sahuaro, nine shots back of first-round leader Notre Dame after the first round, shot 314 for the day to make up 19 strokes and outsdistance Notre Dame by nine shots. Sahuaro finished at 640, Notre Dame was at 649 and two-time defending team champ Salpoiinte (652) had to settle for third.
Cantwell shot 73-71 to finish with even-par 144. Cantwell had three bogeys and two birdies Monday and Tuesday it was the reverse. That was good enough to edge Quihuis, who was forced into catch-up mode after shooting 77 on Monday that included a pair of double bogeys that put her six shots back of the lead.
Quihuis made a run at first place on Tuesday. The senior netted six birdies, but a double bogey on the 11th kept her from continuing a run that pulled her within one stroke through 10 holes.
Cantwell had her hands full playing in a foursome that included Verrado's Kaylee Benton and first-round leader Sarah Eversman of Notre Dame. Benton began play Tuesday in second a shot behind Eversman and one stroke in front of Cantwell. Eversman shot the only under- par round (-1) on Monday, but fell out of contention with a rough front nine on Tuesday. Eversman was +6 the first nine holes.
Cantwell and Benton sparred back and forth for the lead most of the day and went to the 18th hole tied at -1. Benton, as consistent as Cantwell was, found trouble on the par 4 18th. Her tee shot landed in a bunker on the right side fo the fariway. Her second shot didn't clear the bunker and was ended up deeply embedded in the side of the bunker. There was no relief allowed and was forced to take a drop. Benton carded a triple bogey while Cantwell made par. That left Cantwell alone in first at even and Benton at +2.
Cantwell wasn't resting easy with her round finished as Quihuis was a couple holes behind and still within striking distance at +3. Quihuis's fifth birdie of the day on No. 15 pulled her within two. Quihuis parred 17, thus needing an eagle on the 18th to tie.
"I knew it wasn't over," Cantwell said. "Krystal is such a powerhouse. I was fully prepared for her to hole it."
Quihuis came close to that tying shot, landing her second shot at the hole some three feet short. She sank her sixth birdie to finish in second place at +1. Benton was third at +2. Quihuis was bidding to become only the third female golfer in state history to win three individual titles. The others were Heather Farr and Grace Park.
"I thought if I could get a set of birdies and get to even and then get two more that would give me a chance," Quihuis said. "I thought that was possible out here. I had two bad holes (Monday) and the double bogey today (on 11). I sliced a drive in a bush and had an unplayable lie.... I knew I needed to hole my second shot to tie. It was drawing right at the pin and I was saying please be good. It was three or four feet short."
Cantwell, who said she will not compete next year for her school instead playing a circuit to prepare for college-level play, credited a revamping of her game almost seven months ago for giving her a chance to win. She finished 11 strokes behind Quihuis at state last year.
"I changed coaches and my new coach Kene Bensel has made such a difference," Cantwell said. "I really needed to rebuild my game. I got to play with Krystal last year and watching her I knew I would need a really good short game to win it."
Cantwell holed out one chip Tuesday and hit the flagstick on two others. She also said her long game and accuracy helped since the greens were a bit on the bumpy side.
"Putts were hard to make," Cantwell said. "I think I missed four putts inside three feet."
Sahuaro wasn't spectacular with its play, but a solid day from all its golfers on Tuesday put them in the winner''s circle. Sahuaro had no player in the top five (its best was junior Desiree Hong at +5). Hong was three shots better than her Monday round. Teammates Taylor Hughes (five shots better), Kathryn Ottman (five shots better) keyed the rally from third to first. Rachel Blount was only a stroke off her Monday score and Samantha Hacker and Tea Bravo got in a round each. The only senior in the group is Blount so five of six return next year.
Sahuaro coach Megan Hughes took no credit for the triumph other than being supportive of her team.
"I thought if everyone shot well we'd have a chance," Hughes said. "I told them go play, and do your best. ....I talked about nerves. If you feel nervous stop and take deep breaths or shake out your hands."
Sahuaro didn't take the lead until well into the back nine Tuesday, but by the final three holes the Ladyb Cougars were in control.
"It's definiitely nice to win as a team," Hughes said. "We had six players play. Four that played both days. They all played a part."
Rounding out the top 10 behind Cantwell, Quihuis and Benton were Canyon del Oro's Morgan Messick and ND's Eversman (tied for 4th at +4), Sahuaro's Hong (6th at +5) and Hughes (7th at +9), St. Gregory's Natassja Meredith (8th) and Notre Dame's Ciara Petronozio (9th) and Haley Kapanicas (10th).