BRUNSWICK -- Ask any golfer out there who shoots a 15-over par during a single round, and they'd probably tell you the same thing: It's time to throw in the towel.
Not Christian Liggin.
The former Lee County girls golf star and reigning Herald Player of the Year stayed the course and bounced back from one of the worst rounds of her golf career last Friday in Jekyll Island to win the coveted low medalist honors at the Region XVII Tournament with Coastal Georgia on Sunday. And in doing so, she also led the first-year NJCAA Division II women's golf program to the overall team title.
"I caught some tough breaks that first day and lipped out, like, five putts and ended up with four double bogeys," Liggin said by telephone from her new home of Brunswick on Tuesday. "It was terrible. I was discouraged, obviously. But I also knew I was better than that, so I just came back the next day and tried to put it behind me."
Trailing by a whopping eight strokes after the first round, Liggin brushed off that dismal 87 on Day 1 and shaved 10 strokes off her score, firing a 77 on Day 2 and then a 79 on Day 3 to win the title in her first collegiate season by three shots over Gordon College's Cameron Cole. Cole actually led Liggin by four shots on the back nine during the final round, but a triple bogey by Cole and birdie by Liggin on No. 10 made it all even -- and Liggin never looked back.
"I was pretty hard on myself after that first day, but everyone kept telling me I wasn't out of it and it was a three-day tournament and just to come out and play better the next two days," said Liggin, who was a three-time Region 1-AAAA champ during her time with Lee County and was the first player to ever be offered a scholarship by Coastal Georgia when it started a men's and women's program last year. "The second day, I made a lot more putts, posted three birdies and when I ended that round, I was one shot off the lead."
Liggin's assistant golf coach at Coastal, Nicole Wildes, said all that was needed after the disastrous first round was a minor adjustment to Liggin's swing.
Wildes was confident her scores would improve.
"She was just struggling out there and (head coach John) Cook and I looked at her swing after the first round and we fixed what was wrong. Then she just came out bombing away the next day from the first tee," Wildes said of Liggin's second-round 77 -- the lowest score posted by any girls golfer posted during the three-day tournament. "And she even made a few mistakes in that second round, so her score probably could've been lower, like a 73 or 74."
Of course, Liggin had something else working against her that she also needed to overcome to accomplish the feat, and she said it was in the back of her mind the entire tournament.
"I was a little worried coming into the tournament because of what happened to me at state my senior year (in Jekyll Island)," recalled Liggin, who entered the Class AAAA state tournament last year as one of the favorites to win it all, only to shoot 14 over and settle for a fourth-place finish. "I was glad it wasn't the same course, but just playing (in Jekyll Island brought back some bad memories) of what happened to me at state, so I knew it was important for me to play well and win (in order to get past that)."
Liggin's golf coach at Lee County, Cristi Griffin, said Tuesday she had no doubt Liggin would excel at the college level, and was thrilled to hear the news of her former star pupil's big win over the weekend.
"I keep up with her pretty well and I texted her mom Saturday to see how she was doing, and she told me (Christian) won after struggling to start with. I wasn't surprised to hear (she'd bounced back) because she's so mentally tough and she can get over having a bad day better than most and not let it affect her," Griffin said. "Christian's a girl who has all the tools to play at a really high level and she may end up at a Division I school one day."
The win by both Liggin and the team punched the Lady Mariners' golf program's ticket to nationals at Daytona Beach in May in their inaugural campaign. The feat is even more impressive considering the Coastal Georgia girls team is made up of all freshman and the Lady Mariners didn't win a tournament all year.
"We're all so excited. We've been practicing really hard and it's nice to see the hard work has paid off," said Liggin, who played the No. 1 position for Coastal all year and finished as high as second once during the regular season schedule. "We didn't know if it was possible to reach nationals in our first year, but we did it."