Liberty senior Sam Miller records her best-ever finish at the state tournament, tying for fifth individually

Sam Miller made it count.

Competing in her final Class 5A state golf tournament on Monday and Tuesday, the Liberty senior finished in fifth place for her best-ever result at state. Miller also led the Northwest Oregon Conference-champion Falcons to sixth place in the team competition at Quail Valley Golf Course in Banks.

“It was a really tough first day, but it was the conditions,” said Miller, who finished tied for seventh individually in 2012 at state. “Today was much better. I made a lot of mistakes, but I still pulled through.”

Summit of Bend shot a 667 to claim its fifth consecutive title, followed by Crescent Valley (700) of Corvallis, Bend (729), West Albany (730) and Willamette of Eugene (756). Liberty shot a 182-over-par score of 758.

Summit’s Madison Odiorne earned medalist honors for the second straight year with a two-day score of 6-over 150.

After shooting an 85 on Monday in a round that included just one birdie to five bogeys and three triple bogeys, Miller rebounded nicely on Tuesday with a 77, making four birdies to go along with six bogeys and just one triple. Her total score was an 18-over 162.

“The front nine, I had three birdies in a row, just long putts, and then after that I went really dry,” said Miller, who moved up a spot from Monday’s standings. “I was even on the front. I kept it up to the 12th hole, and then I tripled. That kind of messed me up, and then I went on a bogey train for like three holes.”

To Liberty coach Stuart Kivett, Miller — bound for Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho and its golf team next school year — might be just starting to reach her potential.

“She was up and down a tad. She had tons of birdies over the last two days but then just a few too many triples,” Kivett said about his 2013 NWOC medalist. “The talent is so there. It’s so there, and when she learns to get rid of the big numbers, it’s going to be scary how low she can go.”

Miller said that she and her teammates were shooting for a higher finish than sixth, but she noted that every player on the team shot better in the second round than the first. (In fact, all but one did).

And the Falcons did close the tournament on a high note. On Tuesday, Liberty’s score of 362 was an improvement of 34 strokes over Monday’s, which was the second-largest improvement in the field and good for the fourth-best team score on the second day.

McKenzie Oster had a lot to do with that improvement. After a tough day on Monday, when she shot an uncharacteristic 104, the Falcons junior rebounded on the second day with an 83, the ninth-best score in the field. Oster, who finished second to Miller in the overall NWOC standings this season, shot a two-day total of 187 and tied for 17th place, not far behind sophomore teammate Stephanie Miller. The younger Miller’s score of 180 put her in a tie for 13th place — an improvement of 14 spots over her freshman finish in 2012.

“She played McKenzie golf today. Yesterday was we’re-not-sure-what-end-of-the-club-we’re-holding golf, and we all have been there,” Kivett said. “Anybody who’s played has had those days, and you don’t know how to fix it and you can’t fix it, and so you just end up with a score that’s not you.”

Also competing for Liberty, Elaina Maki shot a 242 and took 56th place, with teammate Amanda Takahara finishing one spot and nine strokes behind her.

And as for that team finish — which came at the end of a season in which the Falcons claimed their fifth consecutive league title and the top three individual spots in the league’s overall standings — Kivett said he will take it.

“Sixth place is awesome,” he said. “I was just telling the girls there’s a lot of teams that would trade places with us from around the state.”

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