Poplawski wins Public Links sectional match
Covington's Lewis an alternate

COVINGTON - Katelyn Poplawski had two bogeys canceled by two birdies on the back nine of The Oaks Course to shoot an even par 35 and prevail in the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship qualifying sectional Thursday.

Although 73 is not the lowest score shot at The Oaks during a sectional qualifier, Kathy Heriford, a United States Golf Association committee member, said that score was about as good as anyone was going to get.

"The way I had the course set up, the yardage and the conditions when it started to rain, that's a phenomenal score," Heriford said. "The course conditions were phenomenal. There were a few complaints about hole locations, but, for the most part, I think everything was really, really good."

Poplawski, of Williston, Vt., finished at 2-over-par, beating Stetson University golfer Lauren Darnell of Gainesville by one stroke. Darnell's 74 came as a result of an even par 36 on the front nine and a 3-over 38 on the back nine.

The top four finishers advance to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship June 16-21 in Erin, Wis.

"It's a little over two years old. It's a very links style course. It's going to be a very unique experience for these six players," Heriford said. "I have a strong team, I'm ecstatically happy."

Joining Poplawski and Darnell at the championship are Abby Fitzgerald of Leesburg and Suzanne Stanley of Decatur, Ala.

Fitzgerald took the No. 3 spot after draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the first hole of playoff death after both players finished shooting a 5-over-par 76. They both had a 37 on the front nine and a 39 on the back nine.

Although Covington's Cherry Lewis will not have a guaranteed spot in Erin, she could still be part of the team as the No. 2 alternate.

However, considering that this is her second competitive outing since graduating from Tennessee Tech where she was a member of the golf team, Lewis said she did not play poorly.

"I'm really proud of myself. I feel like I did well and I couldn't ask for anything else," Lewis said. "I would've liked to make the No. 1 position, but second alternate is great. It feels good to get back out there."

After finishing the first nine with a 2-over-par 38, Lewis ran into trouble on the back nine where she had a 6-over-par 41 for a total of 79.

The par-3 11th hole set her back. After hitting her tee shot in the water, Lewis scrambled to finish the hole with a five.

"I could've focused mentally a little better like I planned, but I know what I have to do and I'm ready for it," Lewis said.

Lewis had a chance to finish as the No. 1 alternate but lost to Louisa Yang of Suwanee on the first playoff hole.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.