Annie Park, a 17-year-old MacArthur High School junior, was tied for the lead after the first round of the Nassau boys high school golf tournament Tuesday at the Bethpage Blue course.
Park, one of two girls in the field of 135 golfers, shot a 4-under-par 68 Tuesday to tie two-time defending champion Matt Lowe of Farmingdale. Lowe's younger sister, Alix, is the other girl in the field. "I like playing with the guys," Park said. "I practice with guys and they're aggressive. It makes me strive to do better."
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Park qualified earlier this month for the U.S. Women's Open, which is one of the four major golf tournaments for women. The event is July 5-8 in Wisconsin.
Though there is a high school golf tournament for girls, Park normally plays for her school district's boys team. Nassau golf coordinator Larry Rose said this option is available when a school or district does not offer a girls' program, which her school does not.
Park and Lowe, who lead Cold Spring Harbor's Steven Tanen by four strokes, tee off in the final round Wednesday morning at Bethpage Red. The top nine and an alternate will travel to the state tournament June 2-4 in Ithaca.
Alix Lowe, 14, shot an 81 Tuesday and is in contention for the state tournament.
"Naturally," Matt said of his sister's performance. "She's a superstar."
Alix often practices with her older brother and credits him for her progress.
"He bets with me a lot," said Alix of her brother's teaching methods. "If we're neck-and-neck, he'll bet me five bucks or 20 push-ups."
Added their mother, Carol Ann, "I have pictures of them doing full military push-ups on the green."
Matt Lowe, a 16-year-old sophomore, made a strong back-nine showing after trailing Park by three strokes. He shot an eagle on 12 and a birdie on 16. "I figured it out on the back nine," Lowe said. "I decided to kick it into the highest gear."
The focus, though, remained on Park, who joined the boys team in ninth grade "almost as a relief" from her grueling golf tournament schedule, coach Dave Radtke said. After competing Wednesday, Park will travel to Arizona to play in a tournament this weekend.
"It used to be guys would get upset when she would outdrive them," Radtke said. "But now it's like, 'Oh, no. I want no part of her.' "
Park takes her dominance in stride.
"I'm just playing my own game," Park said, "so I'm not too concerned about anybody else."