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Asheville’s Tsiros, Rockingham County girls golfers make history in NCHSAA 3A championships

Ana Tsiros completed the lone under-par round of the 2018 N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A girls golf championships Monday at Longleaf Golf and Family Club (Southern Pines, N.C.). Tsiros’ three-stroke advantage entering Tuesday grew to four by the conclusion of a historic finish on the par 72, 5,210-yard course. 
Tsiros’ two-day, par score (144) secured Asheville’s first individual state championship in the sport. Tsiros, by carding a 144, will have her name etched among NCHSAA records for the best 36-hole outings in state tournament play.
NCHSAA team records will add a new milestone, too. 
Rockingham’s Victoria Cook putts on Day 2 of the NCHSAA 3A girls golf championships on Oct. 23, 2018 in Southern Pines. Christine Richman/EducationNC
Team champion Rockingham County (Wentworth, N.C.) became the first school to earn four consecutive 3A titles with a two-round score of 493. (Salisbury claimed four straight 2A crowns from 2011-14.) 
“We had a really good ball striking day today (Tuesday),” Rockingham County coach Mike Williams said. “I knew we had to putt better today.”
Rockingham County posted a 248 Monday. The Cougars entered the second round two shots behind Cox Mill (Concord, N.C.), which later shared runner-up honors with Northern Guilford (Summerfield, N.C.) as both shot 506 over the two days.
Tsiros, who has committed verbally to James Madison, took control with four birdies among Monday’s 2-under-70 round.
“I knew I just needed to stay focused on hitting the fairway, the green, and two-putting,” Tsiros said. “That was really my strategy for the whole tournament.”
“I knew it was my game when it came down to it all,” Tsiros continued. “I couldn’t control anything else except how I played. I just wanted to play my best, and leave it all out there.”
Individual runner-up Kayla Smith of Williams High (Burlington, N.C.) blistered Tuesday’s front nine with four birdies of her own. Smith’s five-stroke deficit after Monday, though, proved too much to overcome. Smith (75-73, 148) finished four shots off the pace.
Riley Hamilton (76-74, 150) paced the team champions in third. Hamilton played two rounds without a single double bogey to help her team surpass Mid-State Athletic Conference rival and Central regional champion Northern Guilford.
Hickory’s Anna McDonald (73-80, 153) completed the medalist quartet. Kasey Owenby of Forestview (Gastonia, N.C.) and Courtney Britt of Southern Alamance (Graham, N.C.) rounded out the top six. There was a tie for seventh: Victoria Cook of Rockingham County and Toni Blackwell of Cape Fear High (Vander, N.C.) — and a four-way tie for ninth: Charlotte Catholic’s Kallie Pavlish, Havelock’s Elizabeth Ritchie, Katharina Floyd of Northwood (Pittsboro, N.C.) and Napat Rattannapraken of Hunt (Wilson N.C.). 
Northern Guilford and Cox Mill finished 20 and 21 strokes ahead of Marvin Ridge (Marvin, N.C.) and Weddington (Weddington, N.C.) in fourth and fifth, respectively.
In order, Cape Fear, Hunt, Charlotte Catholic, Terry Sanford (Fayetteville, N.C.), East Chapel Hill and East Rowan (Granite Quarry, N.C.), and D.H. Conley (Greenville, N.C.) rounded out the team finishes.
Asheville coach Tommy Tsiros was on the same page all along with the golfer who won the school’s first individual title in the sport. For years, the coach has honed his communications craft, as “Dad” to Ana Tsiros.  
“As long as she focuses on her, then it will all work out,” Tommy Tsiros said after the state tournament. “And she’ll be there at the end to give it a good go at it … She trusted me on that.”
How strong was Ana’s trust in her dad? Compare Ana’s victory interview preceding her father’s.
“I knew it was my game when it came down to it all,” Ana said. “I couldn’t control anything else except how I played. I just wanted to play my best, and leave it all out there.”
Ana Tsiros sharpened her focus for a second round atonement for her lone double bogey of the two-day tournament. Tuesday, she made par on No. 13, a par 4 337-yard hole. She had eight pars and one birdie on the second round’s back nine.
Asheville’s Ana Tsiros tees off on Day 2 of the NCHSAA 3A girls golf championships on Oct. 23, 2018 in Southern Pines. Christine Richman/EducationNC
Progress evident in repeat Top 10 finishes: Tsiros and Smith were among five repeat top 10 finishers. Tsiros was sixth a year ago on the Foxfire Resort Red course. Smith earned her second consecutive silver medal.
McDonald (fourth) improved her state tournament finish by four positions. Owenby moved to fifth from sixth. Cook made one step from eighth to seventh.
Two for Two … Coming: Team runners-up Northern Guilford and Cox Mill enjoyed photographic moments Tuesday with new NCHSAA hardware. Northern Guilford, though, took home the goods. The Nighthawks’ second-round score (257) was three strokes ahead of the Chargers. Thus, Cox Mill’s runner-up trophy and medals will be mailed to the school.
Siana Wong (Northern Guilford, 83-80) and Riya Modak (Cox Mill, 82-81) were the runners-up’s low scorers, each with a two-day 163 (tied for 13th).
Victors have differing success tastes: Rockingham County made some history, and that’s worth celebrating. But where? Hamilton declared Monterrey (Mexican) Restaurant in Reidsville was the chosen destination for the celebratory meal.
Tsiros said she would find some chocolate ice cream, somewhere.

Alex Bass
Alex Bass is the Sports Information Director at Cardinal Gibbons High School and a longtime promoter of high school sports. Bass helps the N.C. High School Athletic Association coordinate several championship events and regularly contributes as a freelance journalist for many outlets around the state. He was named the NCHSAA’s Special Person Award winner for Region 3 in 2016 and was also sports editor for The Cary News until 2007.