Rubin, Dambaugh make case for girls' golf

Taelor Rubin during the qualifying round of the Palmetto High School Championship.

Girls Rankings »

#NameYearStateRating
1Andrea Lee2016CA68.06
2Kristen Gillman2016TX69.26
3Angel Yin2017CA70.11
4Clare Amelia Legaspi2016CA70.65
5Mariel Galdiano2016HI70.87

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The thinking that high school boys' golf teams are only for boys is downright archaic. In fact, two of the most notable players in the 48-team field at the Palmetto High School Championship are women.

Cary (N.C.) Academy senior Taelor Rubin, who has signed with Ole Miss for the fall, is an easy one to spot, what with a swinging blonde braid resembling that of Natalie Gulbis. After a detailed discussion of her round with two teammates immediately after she stepped out of the scoring tent Thursday, Rubin gave one reason why Ole Miss will be a very good change.

“It will be nice to switch it up and actually play with girls,” she said. “It’s kind of awkward being the only girl, too, because sometimes guys are like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a girl on the tee right now. Like, what is this?’ ”

What this is, in Rubin’s case, might be considered a free lesson – many of her playing partners could learn from her style of play. Armed with a new TaylorMade R11 (with a shaft cut down for better accuracy), Rubin spent the day striping the ball down the middle of the fairway, at least as far as the three boys in her group. She averages 240 to 260 yards off the tee, and shot 4-over 76 in qualifying to tie for low on her team. She was T-24 in the 230-player field.

As she finishes her career at Cary Academy, which began in eighth grade, Rubin is looking forward to a summer that will be spent a little differently than any before.

“It’s weird. Now this summer I’m playing like all amateur events,” she said.

photo

Katelyn Dambaugh

She plans to finish the spring with a few more AJGA events, and is too old for the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She’ll try to qualify for both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open, and June will be spent at the Southern, Eastern and Western Women’s Amateurs. What’s more, Rubin says she’s become a different player since last summer.

“(My game has) improved a lot,” she said. “My putting was definitely my nemesis over the summer.”

Meanwhile, Pinewood Prep’s Katelyn Dambaugh drew the very last position on the tee sheet for Thursday’s qualifying round. Dambaugh is playing in the No. 1 spot for the past champions (the prep school out of Summerville, S.C., won this tournament in 2009). The feisty 16-year-old drew a small, curious crowd out to the final hole on a brisk evening as she closed out a 2-over 74 that left her T-13 in qualifying and four shots ahead of the next-closest teammate.

Dambaugh’s run to the final match of last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she lost to Doris Chen, is enough to spark some well-deserved interest in her play. She has by far the most impressive resume at this championship, and in her first year on Pinewood’s newly formed girls golf team, helped lead the squad to victory at the South Carolina Independent Schools Association state championship.

The field has been separated into three flights after Thursday’s qualifying round, and both Rubin and Dambaugh are in the championship flight. Scores were reset to zero as the real meat of the championship begins Friday. Expect some noise out of these two girls.

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