With eight state championships in the past nine years, Lexington has become the first word in high school girls golf in South Carolina.
This week, the Wildcats travel 2,000 miles to see how they stack up against some of the top programs in the country at the fourth annual Antigua National High School Golf Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“We’ve pretty good in our own neck of the woods, but now we get a chance to see just where we stand against the stiffest competition we’ve ever faced,” Lexington coach Brandon Smith said.
The 16-team, 36-hole tournament runs today and Saturday at McCormick Ranch Golf Club. The field includes state championship programs from Arizona, Texas, California and Nevada.
Lexington will be matched against Xavier High of Phoenix in the first round. The tournament calls for threesomes in a shotgun start.
Smith said Xavier has won 30 state titles.
“I’d like to think that means the organizers are impressed enough to match us up with Xavier,” Smith said. “We’re very excited to have this opportunity to be going up against the best. And when you think of girls golf nationally, you have to think of Xavier”
Xavier has yet to win the Antigua Invitational — finishing second in 2011 and third last season.
Hamilton High of Chandler, Ariz., is another elite entry. Hamilton won the first two Antigua Invitational titles and was runner-up to Punahou High of Honolulu last year.
Lexington worked all year to raise money for the trip.
“We’ve never played outside of South Carolina, so this is a very exciting opportunity for our program,” Smith said. “The girls and their parents put in a lot of work to make all this possible.”
The Wildcats starting lineup is familiar. Lexington returns all five starters from the 2012 team that claimed the Class 4A title with a 43-stroke victory over Spartanburg.
Senior Sydney Legacy, who did not start playing golf until she was in the eighth grade, is a two-time all-state honoree who became the program’s third individual champion last fall.
Junior Lauren Stephenson is a five-year starter and a three-time all-state player.
Sophomore Hailey Cleary has been a starter since the seventh grade, and she earned all-state status for the first time last season by finishing seventh at the 4A finale.
Junior Ann Elizabeth Gore and eighth-grader Gracyn Burgess are also back and making the trip.