AFR: A Friendly Rivalry
Author: David Gignilliat | Photographer: Mark Staff
Try as you might, you’re not going to get the lady golfers at Bluffton and Hilton Head Island High Schools to say something bad about one another. After all, they’re natural rivals, both by geography and comparison. Ocean versus river. Seahawks versus Bobcats; before the Intracoastal, after the Intracoastal; Fording Island Road versus William Hilton Parkway. And yet despite the obvious ready-made potential for hostility or confrontation, neither of the teams’ captains will flinch.
“It’s not like we hate Bluffton, but we compete against each other,” said Jackie Budhidharma, a sophomore golfer for Hilton Head Island High’s Lady Seahawks.
Either they’re precociously savvy at handling media, or they may actually like each other.
“Sure, we see them as a rival before we get to the course, but once we get out to the course, we’re really good friends,” said Samantha “Sammie” Buchanan. “Of course, you always have individuals that you want to beat, but we’re still real close in that we’re not going to try to kill each other.”
Bluffton nearly absorbed the Hilton Head team last year at a time when the Seahawks were having trouble having finding enough golfers to field a team. That didn’t happen, but it seemed to deepen the bond between the friendly rivals. The mutual admiration society continues.
“We’re all friends,” said Brandi Hammonds, a Lady Bobcat. “We joke with each other. We love each other.”
Ok, so it’s not the Hatfields and the McCoys. Or Yankees vs. Red Sox.
“We all get along with each other pretty well,” said Lily Bartell, a senior for Hilton Head. “We’ve all been competing against each other for years in junior golf.”
And it is that friendly rivalry between Bobcats (Bluffton) and Seahawks (Hilton Head) and between long-time Hilton Head Island Junior Golf Association competitors that provides the backdrop for the 2011 season.
Hilton Head just missed the Class 3-A state title last year, losing to A.C. Flora (Columbia) by one stroke at the Quail Creek Golf Course in Conway. Bluffton had won the state tournament every year between 2007 and 2009. In other words, come late October, this friendly rivalry may have its final scrum at the state championships.
Lily Bartell, Hilton Head
Home Course: Old South
Recent Junior Golf Win: 2011 Kiawah Island Junior Challenge at Cougar Point, Feb. 12-13, 2011
2010 Highlights: Low medalist (36) at Sept. 30, 2010 quad-match vs. Bluffton, Fort Dorchester and Beaufort
She Said It: “We’d like to think we have a good shot at states this year.”
Little Known Fact: She’s an intern at Celebrate Hilton Head magazine.
Jackie Budhidharma, Hilton Head
Favorite Local Course: Moss Creek
Favorite Golfer: Rickie Fowler
Most Memorable Shot: Hole-in-One, The Golf Club, Indigo Run, Hole # 8, Par 3 (11 years old at the time)
Season Goals: “To win states and shoot even par over 18 holes”
She Said It: “Golf is a really tough mental game. The only way to get in control of that is just to keep playing in those big tournaments under a lot of pressure and keep your head in it.”
Brandi Hammonds, Bluffton
Best Part of Her Game: “My driver and putter, my short game and my long game.”
Most Memorable Shot: Her first eagle, at the age of 10, at Old South, Hole #7, Par 5
Collegiate Golf Aspirations: University of Kentucky, Newberry College, S.C.
Favorite Pro Golfers: Vijay Singh and Michelle Wie, Rickie Fowler
Little-Known Fact: Nine-time karate national champion
She Said It: “It kind of motivated me to try to do something else to keep me occupied and keep me going” (on dealing with diabetes).
Samantha ‘Sammie’ Buchanan, Bluffton
Best Part of Her Game: Driver and long irons
Favorite Course: Old South
Most Memorable Shot: A double-eagle 2 this August at the Beth Daniels Tournament, Country Club of Charleston, Hole #9, Par 5
Collegiate Golf Aspirations: Clemson, South Carolina, UNC-Greensboro, Winthrop
Favorite Club: Driver and 8-iron
Favorite Pro Golfers: Annika Sorenstam, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott
She Said It: “After they call my name, I just try to zone everyone out and make it me, the ball and the course. I get behind my ball. I look at my line, take a practice swing, feel confident and get over the ball and swing.”