OAK RIDGE – Pigeon Forge rising senior Nate Vaughan managed to pull out a tight victory Tuesday in the second annual 5Star Preps Masters golf tournament at Oak Ridge Country Club.
But there wasn’t much drama for Farragut rising junior Lexanne Halama, who coasted to a 16-stroke victory for the girls’ title.
Vaughan posted a 1-under 71 for Tuesday’s second round after an opening-round 70, finishing at 3 under for the tournament.
William Blount rising sophomore Nick Etherton was second at even-par for the tournament – but made a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 18th hole Tuesday.
“I’m sure (Etherton) was trying to get a little aggressive on the 18th hole to try to get the ‘W,’ ” Vaughan said.
Yep. Etherton was playing in the second-to-last group behind Vaughan and the two first-round co-leaders, Jeremy Ellis of Lenoir City and John Meadows of Christian Academy of Knoxville.
“I played good the first 17 holes and then tried to drive the creek on 18,” Etherton said. “That didn’t work out. … I went for the win and it didn’t work out.”
Halama had pretty much everything working Tuesday, shooting 7-under 65 and finishing 12 under for the tournament.
Maryville’s Ainsley Simms was second at 4 over for the tournament. She was 1 over Tuesday.
There was no catching Halama.
“I’d say this is my best round of the year,” Halama said.
It was great start to the high school season for Vaughn.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Vaughan, who has reached the Division I Class Small state tournament the past two years.
“This is my senior season and it’s definitely special to win the first tournament of the season, but hopefully I can just pile on and I can get better and better and get more experience.”
Catholic’s Harrison Thompson tied for third with Meadows at 1 over for the tournament.
Thompson shot even-par in the second round, while Meadows went 4 over.
CAK won the boys title at 18 over, while Farragut won the girls at 1 under. Both repeated as 5Star Preps Team Champions.
Vaughan was 2 over through six holes Tuesday before making eagle on the par-5 No. 7 hole. He was about 230 yards from the green after his tee shot and pulled out a 3 wood for his second shot.
“I just tried to hit it up there, tried to get it on the green,” he said. “Luckily I walked up and I was 15 feet (from the hole) and was able to roll in the putt. It was big.”
Vaughan made the turn at even par. After a bogey on No. 11, Vaughan had back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14, but bogeyed No. 15.
Then came the crucial par-4 16th hole.
“I hit a good drive and put me about 110 yards out,” Vaughan said. “I had a nice, easy pitching wedge and was able to hit a really good shot right there and make an easy birdie.”
Etherton, who also made birdie on 16, knew where he stood on the leaderboard when he went to the 18th green, but had a shot end up in the creek.
“I was one back at that point and he was playing good,” Etherton said. “I was like, I’m going for it (on 18).”
Vaughan had no plans to get aggressive on the 18th hole. His third shot stopped about 15 feet from the hole, and his birdie was just short.
He tapped in for par.
“The pars on the back nine, the end of the back nine, they were big,” Vaughan said. “Just par is a good score. That’s what I had to tell myself. You can’t get too greedy and try to make too many birdies.”
Halama, however, posted eight birdies to go with one bogey in the second round.
Her bogey was on the fifth hole.
“Honestly, it was like yesterday,” Halama said. “After struggling a little bit, it finally clicked. I was just hitting greens and I was making a lot of nice putts.”
Halama, who had a top-10 finish at the Justin Thomas AJGA tournament in March, will play the AJGA Open in West Bloomfield, Mich., Aug. 5-8 and then the AJGA Girls Championships at Furman Golf Club in Greenville, S.C., over the Labor Day weekend.
During the high school season, she will hone her skills while making college visits. She already has one planned for Tennessee and one for Illinois.
Lady Vols Golf assistant coach Chas Narramore was in attendance Tuesday to scout Halama.
“My swing coach, Suzanne Strudwick (of Fairways and Greens), and I are going to work on stabilizing the swing some more to make it more consistent,” Halama said, “and I’ll be in the gym, continuing to work on strength training and flexibility, and I need to work on some 30- to 50-yard shots to get those wedges in there close.”