As soon as the final putt fell, the tears starting falling for Mariah Smith.
The Clarksville native couldn’t exactly recall what was going through her mind at that moment, but the emotions were overwhelming.
Smith won the final two holes of her match against Middle Tennessee State University senior Jenna Burris at The Honors Course on Friday to claim the 86th annual Tennessee Women’s Amateur Championship.
“Honestly, what was going through my mind was absolutely nothing,” Smith said of her winning putt on No. 18. “I was very nervous and I knew that I had that putt to win. I knew that if things started running through my head, I was going to psych myself out.”
“I just stepped over the putt and kind of made my mind go clear, and I just hit it before I could even think about anything.”
The rising sophomore at the University of Tennessee had an emotional embrace with her caddie, J.T. Batson, and then members of her family as she walked off the green.
“It means so much (to have my family here),” Smith said. “They support me through all of this and they are the reason I am where I am today, so it was really nice to have them follow me all of this week.”
“I know it was a lot of work because I know they had to walk this course too, and it wasn’t easy to walk for five or six days straight. So, yeah, it definitely meant a lot and I’m glad they were here to see me win.”
It was a long day of golf for the two finalists as they had to be on the course at 7:30 a.m. to resume play in their semifinal matches.
Smith and University of Memphis golfer Sydney Colwill started back on No. 8 with Smith leading 2-up. Smith was hot from the opening horn as she stuck her tee shot on the par three to inside two feet and never looked back.
Smith closed out Colwill for a 5&4 victory to earn her spot in the finals.
Burris had to go a little bit longer as 13-year-old Sophie Linder of Carthage took her to the 20th hole before Burris won with a par.
Only the championship match was scheduled for Friday, but inclement weather forced several postponements throughout the week. In total, players were called off the course seven times throughout the five-day tournament.
“It’s funny I knew that I was tired, I knew my body was tired, but I knew in the end there was nothing I could do,” Smith said of the long week. “I had to keep pushing. My legs didn’t have any choice but to keep walking.”
“I kind of just tried to not think about how tired I was and just do what I needed to do. I knew I had to get through the holes and just play the best golf I could all week.”
The championship match remained all square until Smith won holes No. 5 and 8 to go two-up. Burris got one of those back on No. 9 to cut her deficit in half.
Smith once again went two-up on the 12th, but Burris got it right back with a nice par save on the following hole.
Burris then won holes 15 and 16 to take the first lead in the match.
But just when it looked like the Manchester native had all the momentum, Smith got things back to even with a par on 17.
Burris’ drive went left into the tree line on No. 18, but she made a nice out to get her ball just short of the front left part of the green. She pitched on but was unable to save par.
That allowed Smith to two-putt for the win.
“Honestly, I think I can say I’ve never been in a situation as stressful as these matches,” Smith said. “I’ve been in some pretty stressful situations, like when I was playing in the high school championship, but this was definitely a real test for me and my mind.”
“It was really tough. It wasn’t easy whatsoever. I just really enjoyed learning about myself and my game, and just knowing that I can compete at the highest level and succeed.”
Smith won the TSSAA Class AAA state individual title while a senior at Clarksville in 2016.
For results from the flighted divisions at the 86th annual Tennessee Women’s Amateur, go here.