Liberty junior Stephanie Miller matches the best individual finish in school history

CRESWELL — Liberty junior Stephanie Miller shed a few tears as she walked off the final green Tuesday at the Class 5A girls golf state championships, and it was understandable.

Miller followed her first-day 77 — which put her in a tie for first place — with a second-day 86 to fall out of contention for individual medalist honors. It was a frustrating and emotional moment for the junior standout, who came oh-so-close to capturing the program’s first-ever state golf title.

But a funny thing happened a few minutes later in the scorer’s tent. Miller’s tears of sadness turned into tears of laughter when she started to rise from her chair, decided to sit back down, and then tumbled head over heels when the chair scooted out from underneath HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZACK PALMER - Liberty junior Stephanie Miller looks on in frustration as her putt stops short of the hole on the 18th green at Emerald Valley Golf & Resort.

Miller and her Liberty teammates had a good laugh about the scene, and the moment of levity lifted everyone’s spirits.

Suddenly third place didn’t seem so bad.

Miller’s two-day score of 19-over-par 163 was better than every golfer except the Summit duo of Madison Odiorne and Alyssa Kerry, who swept first and second place at 158 and 161, respectively. Willamette’s Madalyn Ardueser was one shot behind Miller in fourth place.

“Because golf is a bit of a slower game, I think people forget that there’s a lot of emotion there,” Liberty coach Stuart Kivett said. “A lot of emotion gets pent up over 18 holes, and I think you saw that come out a little bit at the end of Stephanie’s round.

“But she’s such a positive kid. She never wants it to be about her, it’s always about the team and what she can do to lift everyone else up.”

Miller’s third-place finish helped lift Liberty up as a team. The Falcons finished fifth at the two-day event, held at Emerald Valley Golf & Resort in Creswell.

Liberty’s cumulative score of 790 was well ahead of sixth-place Hermiston (820) and just behind fourth-place Pendleton (770). Northwest Oregon Conference rival Wilsonville finished third (761) and Bend took second (755), while Summit raced to its sixth consecutive Class 5A team title with a score of 676.

The Falcons’ other scoring golfers were senior McKenzie Oster (17th, 95-90–185), freshman Netianah Northcutt (30th, 109-105–214) and sophomore Elaina Maki (41st, 118-110–228). Freshman Lorrin Santoro also competed (58th, 141-145–286).

Miller survived an early hiccup to post a nice round on Monday. She opened with a bogey on the first hole and a triple bogey on the third, but she settled in and eventually made two birdies after the turn and came into the clubhouse at 5-over 77. That was good for a tie atop the leaderboard with Odiorne and a four-shot lead over Ardueser and Wilsonville’s Audrey Chames.

“(Monday) I didn’t feel a lot of pressure because I was with a group of girls that liked to talk, and that took the pressure off of me,” Miller said. “Today there was a little more pressure added on going into the second day tied for first.

“My family even told me not to look at the scoreboard (on Monday), not to add pressure or anything. I just asked the wrong question and I found out I was tied for first.”

The knowledge seemed to rattle the junior, who made five bogeys in her first seven holes, then doubled No. 9 to make the turn at 6-over 42. Trouble continued on the back nine, with double bogeys on Nos. 12, 14 and 15, followed by bogeys on the final two holes.

Much of her struggles were attributable to the undulating greens at Emerald Valley, which were extremely challenging, even for a gifter putter like Miller.

Although she was disappointed when that final putt did drop on the 18th green, Miller admitted to feeling better after having some time for reflection.

“I feel great,” she said. “My goal this year was just to finish top-10, so finishing top-three is amazing.”

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