DUNCAN — Sydney Youngblood knew she was in trouble.
After stepping in a hole at the tee box on the eighth hole, the Durant sophomore felt a sharp pain go up her leg and realized she had aggravated an old knee injury.
What followed was a dominant performance as she recovered to shoot a 1-over-par 73 to take control in Wednesday’s first round of the Class 5A girls state golf tournament at Duncan Golf & Tennis Club.
“Just trying to fight through it, it’s tough having the pain,” Youngblood said. “I knew that our team was sitting pretty well and I just wanted to do what was best for the team and I thought I needed to fight through it. I kept my focus on the injury instead of golf, and that helped me in the end.”
Youngblood is trying to repeat as the Class 5A champion and recently verbally committed to Oklahoma. She shot a 38 on the front nine after bogeying the eighth hole she suffered the injury, and then closed 3-under par with a 35 as the pain in her knee grew increasingly worse.
It was a gritty effort that has her primed to repeat, leading Duncan’s Kayla Witt by six strokes and Deer Creek’s Bailey Blake by nine.
“That was pretty amazing stuff out there to watch her,” Durant coach Tanner Dupree said. “There’s not enough good things I can say about Sydney Youngblood. The person she is, the teammate she is, the toughness mentally and physically to get through what she went through today, she’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent.”
Youngblood now tees off at 10:50 a.m. alongside Witt and Deer Creek senior Emily Folsom, a friend and rival.
Folsom entered the tournament as the favorite to knock off Youngblood after falling one stroke short in last week’s regionals.
She did not help her cause by shooting an 82, which includes two shots landing in the water.
“I just know that I can play better than I did today,” Folsom said. “I just need to keep an open mind.”
The two friends, are excited to play together in the final round.
They spent time together during the summer and fall and it’s grown into a friendly, but competitive, rivalry.
“I would say it’s more like a friendly competition like you’re playing basketball with your buddies,” Youngblood said. “You’re trying to beat them, but you’re still friends. You want the other one to do good, but you also want to do well yourself. It’s a fun competition, but it can also be damaging to friendships.”
It’s a battle many people want to see, and Youngblood said her knee won’t be an issue.
“Ice, ibuprofen and some dinner will be what I need,” she said. “I’ll be fully recovered by tomorrow.”