Nick Talley and Parker Miller spent more than two hours staring at the scoreboards taped to the windows of the Green Meadow Country Club clubhouse.
The Maryville seniors spent the long wait after completing their Region 2-AA tournament rounds on the bubble for a Class AA state tournament berth, but when the final scores were posted, each of them were able to let out a sigh of relief.
Talley secured the final qualifying spot for individuals on the boys side with a 3-over 75 while Miller finished in a three-way tie with Bearden’s Tessa Larmee and Knoxville West’s Calley Holbert, all of whom shot 83 to occupy the three individual qualifying spots on the girls side.
“It was nerve-racking,” Talley told The Daily Times. “At first, I wasn’t really sure about it, but the wind picked up on the back and made some people struggle. I had a feeling I would get it, but it’s great knowing I’m in.”
“When I finished, I really didn’t think I had a chance,” Miller added. “There were two other scores exactly like mine, so I knew it only took one score to send us into a playoff. I was really happy that it ended up working out OK.”
Talley’s path to the state tournament started at the conclusion of last season when he missed out on the opportunity by two stokes. He felt an inconsistent short game was the cause, and improving that part of his game made up around 75% of his practice sessions during the offseason.
“It paid off today,” Talley said. “I did struggle a bit on the back (nine), but I found it and got it together when I needed to and ended up finishing well enough to qualify.”
Miller opened the season by winning the 5Star Preps Masters at Three Ridges Golf Course on July 29-30 but had not played as well in recent weeks. Those struggles continued while starting on the back nine, which caused issues for most of the field.
Miller shot a 44 through her first nine holes but rebounded with a 39 after the turn to reach the state tournament for the first time.
“Coach Driver came up to me (at the turn) and said, ‘Hey, you’re still in this. Don’t give up. You got this,’” Miller said. “That helped a lot. I was able to stay calm and keep playing.”
Jack Sheffield, Jack O’Quinn and Leo Huddleston shot 76, 80 and 81, respectively, to round out the Rebels’ team score of 310, which tied Bearden for second place and fell three strokes shy of region champion Knoxville Halls.
Halls also won the girls region championship.
Rylee Tucker shot an 86 to give the Lady Rebels a 169, which tied for third place with Bearden.
Heritage’s Sarah Whitehead, Tori Holder and Jayce Oescher qualified for the region tournament as individuals and shot 88, 97 and 122, respectively. William Blount’s Ryley Forester carded an 89 after posting a 78 in the District 4-AA tournament to qualify for the region.
Talley and Miller will compete for a state championship at Sevierville Country Club on Oct. 6-7.
“For Parker, the Highlands course is not as long, but it’s tight,” Maryville coach Mike Driver said. “She hits the ball a long way, but she doesn’t really have to hit it a long way there, she just has to keep it in play and manage her drives off the tee.
“The River course is a longer course. It’s tight as well, but Nick has a lot of length. The biggest thing for him is making sure he keeps it in play and gives himself to make birdies.
“Both are challenging courses, but we’ve played a lot of challenging courses this year, so I think they’ll be ready.”