When it comes to the Tournament of Champions, the Montgomery High School girls’ golf team was always close but could never quite secure the state championship.
In the last eight years, the Cougars had finished second once, third three times and fourth three times.
But on May 21 at Royce Brook Country Club in Hillsborough, Montgomery finally secured that elusive team title when it captured the Tournament of Champions state crown by 11 strokes over Immaculate Heart Academy.
“We knew we could do it,” Montgomery coach Jenny Jones said. “It was just a matter of if we could play to our potential. We had gone 13-1 so we knew we had a good enough team. We didn’t go out and win every tournament we played. We won the conference tournament but we lost at counties. We won the Hunterdon Central Red Devil Invitational, but we came in second at the Lady Bomber. We were always one or two a lot of the time.”
This time the Cougars finished right at the top in the biggest tournament of the season. Tiya Chowdary led the way for Montgomery when she shot a 71 to finish second individually, just one shot behind Yoona Kim of Bergen County's Immaculate Heart Academy.
Senior Madeline Jin posted a 75 to finish sixth, while senior Joy Cao fired a 74 and sophomore Lauren Chung shot an 85 to round out the top four. Alina Shah came in with a 102 as the Cougars’ fifth player.
“We knew we had the ability to win,” Chowdary said. “However, making it all come together we had a little bit of luck because some of the other teams didn’t have their best days out there. That’s how the win kind of came together. We were hoping for it and it just kind of happened.
“A lot of teams are the same skills wise. It was just coming together on the right day and at the right time. We all had similar thoughts and the same mindset. So we all came together that day.”
The Cougars made up for all of those near misses with a performance that presented them with the elusive title.
“We have been second, third, fourth at the T of C and we’ve won the sectional numerous times,” Jones said. “But this was the one we hadn’t won yet. We’ve always had a very good No. 1 and a good No. 2 but then we started to fall off. This year we had a solid four players. That has alway been a problem, that we were missing that strong fourth person. The girls side has gotten so strong in New Jersey that without that strong fourth person in the 80s you can’t put together a low enough score.”
And all four had a good round at the same time to give the Cougars the performance they needed. Chowdary led the way, finishing just one shot off the pace for the individual crown.
“I was hoping for first place, but Yoona played great that day,” said Chowdary, a sophomore. “I was always about a shot behind. I didn’t have too many high expectations to win. Obviously, I wanted it. But I just wanted to play my best score and play my best game out there and mostly do it for the team.
“It was nice. We worked hard this season as we have other seasons. The team this year was strong and we had a good work ethic throughout the season.”
Jones has seen the growth in her team and came into the year thinking a TOC title was possible.
“At the tournament they have running live scoring on a google sheet so I could see what was happening,” Jones said. “We were not in the lead all day. W trailed Pingry at different holes and then all of a sudden the tide turned. Pingry had a couple of bad holes and we had a couple of good holes.
“Joy and Lauren have both been solid and had good seasons. Lauren is dedicated and hard working. She wants a future in golf. She’s been consistently low. I knew she and Joy would brig in low scores.”
For Montgomery, which has won four sectional titles and been second three times in the last eight years, it was a great way to end the season.
“It was just a really nice day,” Chowdary said. “We all even coordinated our outfits properly. It was just a really exciting experience and we all had a fun season as well. It was really worth it to end the season nicely.”