By BEN JOHNSON
Ask Emily Pippin what her favorite part of the high school golf season is. The answer may surprise you.
It would have to be the enjoyable spring weather, playing multiple relaxing rounds of golf or possibly even missing class on a once-a-week basis. Right?
Not so much.
“My favorite part of the season is the traveling,” said Pippin, the Tahlequah senior. “You don’t get much time with your teammates throughout the course of the season, so it’s nice to have that time to bond.”
Well, Pippin is in luck. She and teammate Mikal Yahola — along with coach Mike Clayborn — will trek roughly 450 miles roundtrip to Dornick Hills Golf Course in Ardmore for the Class 5A state tournament, which begins today.
The 36-hole tournament will last through Thursday, pending any weather delays.
For Pippin, she’s out to improve upon her 16th-place finish last season’s state tournament, which was played at Lincoln Park East in Oklahoma City.
“This year,” Pippin said, “I’m striving for top 10 and qualifying for All-State.”
Clayborn has the same goals in mind for Pippin.
“Emily has a good chance to make All-State, and they’ll take the top two seniors for that,” Clayborn said. “I think she’s medaled in every tournament we’ve played this year.”
Yahola’s aspirations for this season’s state tournament are a little more simplistic.
“I would like to shoot under 100 and have fun,” she said. “Other than that, no other goals come to mind.”
Both Pippin and Yahola qualified for the state tournament on just an absolute abysmal day at Pryor Creek Golf Course last week. With temperatures struggling to get to 40 degrees, wild chill in the low 30s and winds whipping around 25 mph, Pippin managed to shoot an 85 and finish third at the regional tournament. Yahola carded 105 to join her teammate in the final tournament of the season.
“I felt sorry for them,” Clayborn said of the conditions at the regional tournament. “If I had played, I probably would of quit. I just felt bad they had to play in that.”
Pippin said the sub-standard conditions got her competitive juices flowing.
“It can’t get much worse than 30 degrees and rain,” she said. “But I seem to perform best during bad conditions, as crazy as that sounds.”
Yahola, who played in a state tournament as a sophomore when Tahlequah qualified as a team, said making the field as an individual is a special feeling.
“It means a lot more to me,” Yahola said. “It’s a log easier to qualify as a team, so as a senior it’s cool to be able to qualify by myself to the state tournament.”
At Dornick Hills, a stern test awaits all the 5A golfers.
“It’s a pretty tough course,” Clayborn said. “I’m not sure about the yardage, but it’ll be long.”
Making her assessment, Pippin said, “I’ve never been to Ardmore, but it’s quite the adventure, I hear.”
As for the long ride to southern Oklahoma, what’s on the agenda, Emily?
“Lots of sleeping,” Pippin said. “And lots of listening to music.”