Episcopal’s Julia Johnson cards 73 on 1st day

SHREVEPORT — Julia Johnson may only be an eighth-grader, but she said she’s figured out her ticket to college.

The diminutive Episcopal-Baton Rouge golfer used booming drives, precise irons and timely putts to post a 2-over 73 and take the lead in the Division II state golf championships at Shreveport Country Club on Wednesday.

Johnson owns a two-stroke advantage over Anna Heine of University Lab. Heine’s 75 helped the Cubs take the lead in the team competition. Heine and Maggie Westbrook combined to give University a 173 total, and an eight-stroke edge over defending state champion McGehee.

But Wednesday was all about Johnson, who finished third as an individual as a seventh-grader.

“I’m just looking to start something,” she said. “If I win this, it can only get better from here. Colleges would start to notice.”

Johnson recovered from a disappointing front nine, as a bogey-bogey stretch put her in a funk that normally hinders her game.

“When I get in those rhythms, I don’t usually get out of them,” she said.

However, a par at the extremely difficult dogleg-right, par-4 15th hole put her back in the zone.

A “half” 8-iron pierced a headwind at the par-3 17th and left Johnson an 8-foot birdie putt that she converted. Another spectacular 8-iron capped the day. Her “full” approach to the final hole nestled within 5 feet of the pin.

With the help of Sydney Cavin’s 86, Dunham is 14 strokes off the pace in third place.

Playing as an individual, Taylor Kennedy of Runnels is third heading into Thursday’s final round after opening with an 80.

Defending state champion Lana Hodge of Ouachita Christian and reigning runner-up Angelica Harris of McGehee are eight back after 81s.

Bethany Loupe of Berwick posted an 82.

In the Division I competition, St. Thomas More’s Lauren Aillet was the only golfer to break 80 on a century-old Shreveport Country Club venue boasting slick greens, tight fairways and thick rough.

Aillet, who finished fourth last year, shot a 79.

An 84 from Danielle Perez gave the four-time defending state champion Cougars a 163 total and a seven-stroke advantage over St. Joseph’s Academy. St. Scholastica is third, 13 strokes behind the Cougars.

Perez, Savannah Ennis (St. Scholastica) and Tayler Thompson (St. Joseph’s Academy) heads a tight pack ready to pounce in the individual race should Aillet have any missteps Thursday.

St. Louis’ Olivia Hansen, St. Louis and New Iberia’s Emily Pellerin posted 85s while Grant’s Mattison McCain and St. Joseph’s Jessica Varner shot 86.