Friday, June 13, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> CHS grad wins at Pine Bluff

Leader sportswriter

Former Cabot High School standout golfer Marlena Weatherly took first place at the one-day Optimist Golf Tournament at the Pine Bluff Country Club last Saturday, and with the win, she qualified to compete in next month’s Optimist International Junior Golf Championships that’ll take place at the prestigious PGA National Resorts and Spa in Palm Beach, Fla.

Weatherly shot an 84 at last Saturday’s 18-hole tournament, which was the score needed to qualify for the 15-18-year-old junior tournament at Palm Beach, Fla. Weatherly will compete in the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships from July 24-29.

Last Saturday’s event was the second tournament Weatherly has competed in this summer, and even though she didn’t play as well as she’d hoped, she was pleased overall with the result – especially considering she’s made some recent changes in her game.

“I didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked to,” said Weatherly, “but shooting an 84 with having a swing change – my goal right now is to shoot in that range because of everything I’ve had to change. I’ve fixed my putting grip, and little things that have been kind of holding me back from getting to the next level.

“My putting is much better, and the swing change has obviously been difficult. Shooting an 84, it wasn’t in the 70slike I would’ve hoped, but my goal going into it was to shoot around 80.”

Weatherly, a 2014 CHS graduate, signed a scholarship in January to play golf at Central Baptist College in Conway this fall, and CBC coach Lyle Middleton has been helping her adjust to the swing change that she says is improving her shot distance.

“It’s working well,” Weatherly said. “I’m gaining at least seven yards on my shot, and quite a bit on my drive, so I’m having better shots towards the hole.”

Winning the tournament last Saturday was one thing, but qualifying for the trip to Palm Beach, Fla. didn’t come easy. It came down to the last hole, and as Weatherly entered the 18th hole, she was made aware that she had to get at least a par on the distant par four hole to qualify for the chance to compete at the prestigious Palm Beach resort next month.

“I didn’t know till the last hole that I had to do that,” Weatherly said. “I realized going into the last hole that I had to par it to shoot 84 and go to Florida. It was a long par four. I didn’t get on the green like I’d hoped to, but I got up and down and made my chip-in putt, which was all I could hope for.

“It’s very exclusive. You have to be invited to the resort to even stay there. It’s kind of a once in a lifetime thing, so it’s pretty cool.”

Weatherly competed this week in the National Tri-State Junior Girls Golf Championships in El Dorado this week. The three-day tournament is a team event that consists of the best golfers at the junior level, 15-to-18-years-old, from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Weatherly’s team from Arkansas won last year’s event that took place in Tunica, Miss.