Perhaps the only thing sweeter than victory is the dash of surprise that can come with it.
With three bogeys on the back nine, including consecutive slips at Nos. 16 and 17, Cheyenne Knight figured her chances of claiming one of two collegiate spots at next month’s LPGA Volunteers of America Texas Shootout were next to nothing.
But you just never know, and her 15-foot birdie on 18 turned into something.
Knight, a freshman at Alabama who won two state championships at Aledo, qualified for her first LPGA event after touring the 6,410-yard layout of Las Colinas Country Club at 2-over-par 73 at the High School and College Shootout on Wednesday.
She was joined at 73 by Texas A&M sophomore Maddie Szeryk, last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year who qualified for her second Texas Shootout.
“My putter let me down a little bit. Going up 18, I thought I was out of it,” said Knight, whose home course is Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth. “I had no idea [she was in the running].
“When they told me at the scorers table I was the lowest … I was in shock.”
Knight and Szeryk, from Allen, marked victory over 39 other college players, who were all dealing with a difficult March wind.
Two high school players will also join the LPGA’s professionals for the April 26-May 1 event at Las Colinas.
After capturing the prestigious Kathy Whitworth Invitational in Fort Worth on Tuesday, Kristen Gillman of Austin Lake Travis seized on an opportunity at the Texas Shootout.
Gillman shot a 1-over 72, her best shot perhaps a 30-foot putt to save par on No. 15 after hitting her tee shot in the woods. Her total was matched by 14-year old Karah Sanford of Escondido, Calif.
Gillman will be following Knight to Alabama.
Knight’s rise began earlier this month with her first college victory at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in South Carolina. Knight opened her rookie campaign with a seventh-place showing at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
“It’s been a good stretch of golf,” said Knight, the Class 4A and Class 5A state medalist in 2014-15 at Aledo. “I’ve had a good freshman year. I’ve gotten a lot of confidence in my swing.
“I’m hitting it very well, managing the game well and, mentally, I’m a lot better. I just have this belief in myself that I can do it.”
With her victory in South Carolina, Knight climbed to No. 24 in Golfweek’s most recent NCAA individual rankings.
Knight’s drive on the 510-yard, par-5 No. 18 found the fairway. She laid up and had 100 yards to the green.
She believed her experience at Shady Oaks was a booster shot, the layout being similar and both sets of greens cat-quick.
Knight mentioned that she also wouldn’t have been surprised if a former member of Shady Oaks, Ben Hogan — “The Hawk” — didn’t lend a handhigh.
“My caddie today on No. 16,” Knight said, “he saw a hawk and he said, ‘there’s Hogan watching over us.’ ”
You just never know.