A state title is within reach for Lauren Slatton. The golfing phenom from Warren County has put herself in contention at the TSSAA state tournament at Sevierville Golf Club, shooting a 1-over, 71 on the first day of the 36-hole event.
Slatton currently sits in a tied for third, just three shots away from leader Sophie Christopher from Houston. Christopher carded five birdies in her last 11 holes to shoot a 2-under, 68 Thursday.
Warren County’s star has been on this stage before and knows how to handle the spotlight. She was in the same position last year, coming out of the first day in a three-way tie for third before ultimately finishing sixth. Her comfort with the course and her game is at a high level going into the final round.
“I feel good. Today, I feel like I played great, I just struggled in the beginning with the speed of the greens,” said Slatton after her opening round.
It was a roller coaster day for Slatton, who finished with seven bogeys, four birdies and an impressive eagle. Slatton was one of just two players to card an eagle on the first day, with both her and Lauren Davis getting up and down with ease on the Par 5, No. 3.
“I hit an amazing drive to have around 165 yards out (for my approach). I stuck it within 15 feet and made the putt,” said Slatton about the eagle, which temporarily had her in the red early Thursday.
She gave back two strokes on No. 4 and No. 6, then sandwiched two birdies on No. 7 and No. 9 around a bogey on No. 8. Slatton dipped back into the red with another birdie on No. 12, but had three bogeys in her final five holes.
Fortunately, she saved her best tee shot on a Par 3 for the last hole. Slatton was able to end with a birdie on No. 18, likely earning her a spot in the final pairings Friday.
Round 2 tee times were not set at press time, but Slatton should be in one of the final groups after helping pace the field Thursday. Currently, Cookeville’s Daniella Pryor – one of Slatton’s playing partners Thursday – sits alone in second at 1-under.
Slatton is tied with Franklin’s Sophia Dipaolo, last year’s champion, for third, while Hume-Fogg’s Rachel Waters rounds out the top five after shooting a 2-over, 72 Thursday.
Slatton is seeking to bring a state championship back to Warren County for the first time since 1992, when both the girls golf team and the Pioneers baseball team won titles. With a strong finish Friday, Slatton could become just the second individual champion in school history, pairing her with Bobby Haile (1980-1981 boys golf).
Check the Standard website Friday for the latest updates on Slatton’s chase for the state championship.