Lakeland High senior Corey Rippee reached into his pocket on the first playoff hole, pulled out a penny to mark his golf ball and noticed the coin came up tails.
As the saying goes, tails never fails, and by this, his 19th hole, Rippee had become a firm believer. Seconds later, Rippee’s putting stroke didn’t fail as he drained an 8-footer for birdie and medalist honors Friday at the boys’ State Class B Tournament at sun-baked Stoneridge Country Club.
Bishop Kelly’s Erica Towne won girls’ honors with a 92, edging Priest River’s Abbie Stensland and Bonners Ferry’s Sara Walter, who shot 95s.
“My coach (Brad Murray) gave me a penny after my first hole because I forgot to bring something to mark with. All day, whenever it came up tails, I would make a birdie putt,” said Rippee, whose 74 put him into the playoff against Kimberly’s Preston Hafer.
“It came up tails again and I knew I was going to make it.”
And he did, right in the heart of the cup, his turbulent senior season suddenly washed away by an enormous grin. Rippee, who worked at Stoneridge last summer, hadn’t been below 80 in Intermountain League competition this year. He qualified for state by one shot at districts.
The top three finishers struggled on the closing holes. Rippee bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18, and Kellogg’s Travis Fulton bogeyed 17 and 18 to finish third at 76.
Hafer came to the 18th tee at even par, needing just a bogey to win, a fact he apparently wasn’t aware of. His 8-iron approach from 160 yards flew the green and his chip back hit a stump. He chipped on, two-putted for double bogey and the playoff was on.
“I was going downhill and I probably should have hit a 9 (iron),” said Hafer, who will play at Oklahoma State next year.
Hafer lost a playoff for third place on the same No. 1 at Stoneridge three years ago. This time he played the hole well, but pushed a 12-foot birdie putt to the right. Earlier Friday, he had switched putters, opting for a heavier implement to combat Stoneridge’s blazing, counter-top-like greens, which produced many three-putts, several fourputts and at least one five-putt.
Hafer has placed first, second, third and fourth in his four state tournaments. Last year, he shot a 61 - twice lipping out putts - to win districts and then scored 74 and 66 at state.
Hafer is frighteningly good. On this day, however, the steady Rippee was better. A little course knowledge didn’t hurt, either.
“My knees were knocking and my teeth were chattering, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t thinking going down (No. 1) fairway,” said Rippee, who said senior distractions - prom, selecting a college, etc. - were part of the reason he slid this season after winning the IML title as a junior. “This is a real good feeling,” he said.
“He’s struggled all year, shooting 83s, 84s,” coach Murray said. “But it all come together for him this week.”
In the boys’ team standings, six schools advanced to today’s final round, which begins at 8 a.m. Kimberly, runner-up the last three years by an agonizing one, two and three shots, is first at 334. Jerome is at 335 and Emmett at 336. Moscow, sixth place at 346, was the lone north team to advance.
In the girls’ event, Stensland and Walter each had 45s on the front nine and 50s on the closing nine. Stensland defeated Walter in a playoff to take second place.
The team title is Bishop Kelly’s to lose. The Knights shot 288 and lead Jerome by 30 shots. Bonners Ferry is third at 321 and Kellogg is sixth at 331 heading into today’s final round.
State Class A
At the boys’ Class A Tournament at Lewiston’s Bryden Canyon Golf Course, Capital and Idaho Falls are tied for first place after shooting 296s. Boise and Twin Falls are at 297 and Lewiston is in fifth at 299.
Coeur d’Alene, led by Rick Hammond’s 78, finished 12th at 320 and didn’t qualify for today’s final round.
Boise High’s Jesse Hibler survived a two-hole, five-person playoff en route to medalist honors. All five fired 71s.
Twin Falls has a 14-shot lead over Rigby in the girls’ tournament. Lewiston is third at 255, well behind Twin Falls’ 235. Rigby’s Jody Niemann was medalist with a sparkling 73.
Coeur d’Alene placed seventh, paced by Wendy Gates’ 87. Lake City was 14th as Melissa Carper shot 97.
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