SHELBY — Lexi Uplinger saved one of her best competitive rounds of golf for the final day of her high school career.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Uplinger carded an 84 during the closing round of the Division II state tournament Saturday at The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Gray Course.
The senior carded a 92 during Friday’s opening round and finished with a two-day total of 176, good for 28th place individually. Saturday’s eight-stroke improvement made Uplinger one of the biggest upward movers during the event and came on a day when a majority of the field struggled in cold and windy conditions.
“I was very pleased with my round. I had a really good front nine,” said Uplinger, a member of each of Shelby’s three state-qualifying teams. “I kind of lost it on the back nine but I was able to stick with it and shoot a round in the low-80s.”
Competing on the state’s biggest stage never crossed Uplinger’s mind when she entered the program four years ago.
“When I walked into golf practice my very first day my freshman year the goal was, ‘Let’s get to state,’ ” Uplinger said. “I was like, ‘We’re going to be able to get to state? What?’ ”
Shelby didn’t qualify as a team in 2015, missing out on a state berth by one stroke at the Sycamore Springs district. Alexis Jones and Claire Korbas qualified as individuals that fall and Jones would win the individual state crown.
Shelby won sectional and district titles and finished third at state in 2016, Uplinger’s sophomore season. The Whippets were second as a team in 2017 and again this year.
“We made it here three years in a row and we finished second twice,” Uplinger said. “It has been amazing.”
Not surprisingly, Uplinger’s performance improved each year during her high school career. She shot an 81 at this year’s Valley View sectional to finish in sixth place. She shot 96 at Valley View as a freshman, 93 as a sophomore and 91 as a junior.
The trend continued at the Sycamore Springs district, although the improvement wasn’t quite as dramatic. She shot 114 as a freshman, 96 as a sophomore, 94 as a junior and 92 this year.
Her 84 Saturday was her best of six rounds at the state tournament and continued a trend established in her first two state appearances. Uplinger shot a better score on the second day of tournament in all three trips to Columbus.
In her first trip to state in 2016, Uplinger carded a 98 on the opening day and a 94 during the final round. In 2017, she shot an 89 during the first round and an 85 on day two.
“Lexi has been a great captain for us the last two years and I’m glad she played well,” Shelby coach Brad Ruminski said. “I’m proud of her and I’m very happy for her.”
While she would have liked to raise the gold trophy, bringing home the silver two years in a row is no small accomplishment.
“It would have been nice to win, but I’m happy we were still able to get on the podium,” Uplinger said. “We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to the program once Alexis Jones graduated. We thought things might drop off a little bit, but we came back the next year and this year stronger than ever.
“It’s exciting to say I was part of such a successful program.”