Cleveland senior golfer Kyra Ly made a strong case for being the 6A favorite with her performance in the 6A/5A State Preview tournament last week at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell.
Ly, who has dominated Portland Interscholastic League matches this season, shot a 2-under-par 70 on Thursday to win by two strokes over Sheldon senior Corinne Lilywhite, Sunset freshman Erika Kobayashi and Camas (Wash.) sophomore Jacinda Lee.
As well as Ly played on the state course at Emerald Valley, she missed several makeable putts, something she is hoping to correct when she returns for the 6A championship tournament May 16-17.
“I liked the course a lot. I think it's very scoreable,” Ly said. “I didn't do terrible at the State Preview, so I'm hoping to do better than that at state. I was a little surprised about the scores. I know those other girls can do better.”
Ly missed multiple opportunities for eagles.
“Some of those easily could have dropped,” Cleveland coach Lauri Hausafus said. “She had some lip out, and then she tapped in for birdie. She had so many tap-ins. They just weren't falling for her.”
It marked the fifth time in as many matches this season that Ly has shot under par. In PIL competition, she fired a 6-under 66 at Red Tail Golf Center, a 7-under 66 at Rose City Golf Course, a 6-under 66 at Heron Lakes Great Blue and a 5-under 67 at Heron Lakes Greenback.
“She has had it together,” Hausafus said of Ly, a three-time OGA Junior Golf Player of the Year who has signed with Oregon State.
The 5-foot-2 Ly is one of the state's big hitters, consistently driving about 250 yards. With tees being moved forward for high school golf this season – courses are about 4,800 yards, down from the usual 5,000 or more -- she has distinguished herself from the competition with an efficient short game.
“I wasn't expecting myself to play this well, but with the short yardages, I was able to really score because my short game has improved a good amount,” Ly said. “My putting and chipping has been really good these past few months. It's been a surprise to me, but I'm proud of myself.”
Hausafus believes the new distances haven't worked in favor of Ly, who nearly drove several of the par-4s at Emerald Valley.
“I feel like if they hadn't shortened the course, she would pull away from the pack a little more than she is going to,” Hausafus said. “Because shortening the course allows these other kids who don't hit the ball as far, but have good short games, to kind of stay in the game with her.”
Ly has more than met the challenge of an increased emphasis on the short game.
“I think because my short game has improved so much, it's really no different than playing the long yardages anymore,” Ly said. “If it were me last year, it would be a bit of a struggle. But it's pretty good. I like playing these short yardages.”
Ly will need her deft touch to navigate the elevated greens at Emerald Valley. They caused some issues for her last week.
“We don't play many helmet greens like that,” Hausafus said. “The slope is definitely going to be a factor at state. So I'm happy that she got that experience, knowing that those are there, and to make that adjustment. She had some ideas in the car on the way home.”
Ly already has earned a berth in the 6A tournament by winning the PIL individual title. She accumulated 312 points in four matches in Stableford scoring, easily outpacing Wells junior Helen Brodahl (282) and Grant senior Pippa Goodbody (253).
She missed one of the PIL tournaments to compete with Mountainside senior Emily Song in the Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship, a USGA event April 20-24 in Puerto Rico. They qualified by winning the Oregon Women's Four-Ball Championship last summer.
The international competition was the third USGA event for Ly, whose resume includes two titles each in OGA Junior Match Play and Oregon Junior Stroke Play tournaments.
Ly placed 14th in the 6A tournament as a freshman before the COVID-19 crisis wiped out the state championships the last two years. Now she has a chance to become the first Cleveland girl to win a state title and the first PIL individual champion since Lincoln's Avery Sills in 2008.
“It's my last run, so I want to give it my all,” Ly said. “I'm feeling more pressure as it comes on a little bit, but I'm super excited to play.”
Hausafus believes Ly has a chance to go far in her golf career.
“I feel like if she wants to be on the LPGA tour, with her drive and her love for it, it's just a matter of her wanting it,” Hausafus said. “She's very good at setting goals for herself. I think it could become a reality.”
Notes: Camas (Wash.) finished first in the team scoring at the State Preview at 324 strokes. Mountainside (327) was the top Oregon team, ahead of Jesuit (330), Westview (344), Summit (346) and Sheldon (403). … The other top individuals were Mountainside's Song (73), Camas' Jasmine Chen (73), North Eugene's Franci Tomp (74) and Westview's Momo Udom (74).