Centralia state golfers Stephens, Pace close in more ways than one

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 10/29/22

Centralia golfers Tess Stephens and Bailey Pace have been close for years.

This season, Stephens and Pace were even closer when it came to their accomplishments on the course. Factoring in all …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Centralia state golfers Stephens, Pace close in more ways than one


Centralia golfers Tess Stephens and Bailey Pace have been close for years.

This season, Stephens and Pace were even closer when it came to their accomplishments on the course. Factoring in all of their scores, the pair averaged a half stroke difference following each of their second appearances at the state tournament.

“It’s hard to not be competitive with one another whenever you’re relatively close in scores,” Stephens said. “I’m always happy for Bailey when she does really well.”

“I’d say we both like to compete against each other,” Pace said. “We’re both always really supportive of each other. We’re always happy for each other, and we’ve always been friends. We do love competition, but we’ll always be proud of one another.”

At the Lady Panthers’ meets, Stephens and Pace both finished at the top of the individual standings much of this season and took turns owning the team’s top score. At one meet, the Paris Scramble Tournament, Stephens and Pace even had a chance to share the same score as the tournament involved pairing golfers up, and the duo posted the best score to lead Centralia to a second-place team finish, following a scorecard tiebreaker.

Head coach John Finlay said the pair do like to give each “some grief” like when they are on the driving range and he likes seeing them compete with each other, but at the same time, they are equally as supportive of each other.

Finlay said having both Stephens and Pace results in the team finishing well at meets throughout the year but also affect the team in a positive way as being the “oldest” golfers on the team. He doesn’t mean older by age, with there being a senior as well, but oldest and wisest due to experience on the course.

“They were good with all the other kids that played so they got leadership skills,” Finlay said. “It’s not always like, ‘Try this. Try that.’ It’s not verbal always. Sometimes, it’s this is how I’m doing my thing today, and kids look at them and try to do the same thing. They’re pretty good models at practice.”

This was the pair’s debut at the Class 2 state tournament last Monday and Tuesday at Silo Ridge Country Club in Bolivar after playing at Silo Ridge in last year’s Class 1 tournament. Conditions were windy and cold compared to the Lady Panthers’ trip to Bolivar last year.

Both golfers and Finlay said every golfer had to deal with the same conditions, but others were able to adjust better to the conditions. Finlay said it is hard to be ready for a 20-mph wind in your face for about a third of the holes and temperatures in the 30s on top of the delays on both days – 30 minutes on Day 1 and an hour and a half on Day 2.

“I wasn’t really excited about going to Silo Ridge again at first,” Stephens said. “Then, on the practice round (on Sunday), I was like, ‘Oh this isn’t that bad. This will be good.’ Then it was about 20 degrees colder the next two days. It was a totally different experience.”

“I was not that excited about going back (to Silo Ridge),” Pace said. “But it was definitely an advantage knowing the holes and how they were. I’d say definitely the wind and wearing of the extra clothes was not the best and not the best time to play.”

In the Class 1 tournament, Stephens made it with the rest of the Lady Panthers, who finished third in the state, and Pace missed out on all-state honors by three strokes after qualifying as an individual. In the Class 2 Tournament this year, Stephens finished in a tie for 57th out of 81 golfers after shooting a 208, or 64-over par, and Pace took 70th place after shooting a 221.

As is the case with all friends, Stephens and Pace have different preferences, including when it comes to weather, like Stephens said she prefers to be “dripping in sweat than shivering” and Pace said she would rather be “cold and layered up than sweaty and having no energy while playing.” Regardless, though, the level of cold conditions at state presented problems such as gripping the club and restricting movement with all the layers.

The scores didn’t diminish the solid years each of them had leading the Centralia girls golf program and the possibilities for their senior years. Finlay said there was “growth outside of swinging a golf club” among his team of four returners and seven newcomers this year and especially from Stephens and Pace.

“Approach to a different situation that they’ve seen before – I saw a difference in, ‘I didn’t hit that ball the way I wanted to, but I can take a deep breath and say OK, here’s how I get myself back out of this,’” Finlay said. “I saw that from both girls all year long. The mental side of the game is so overlooked, and that was something we got better at.”

Finlay was impressed how each girl improved their results on the course as Pace achieved personal-best scores this season, and Stephens shot her best nine-hole score of 85 at districts. Regardless, each girl has ideas how they can improve and eventually make a senior trip back to state.

“I personally want to get better with my short game,” Stephens said. “It’s really iffy. Most of the time, it’s off. I’d just like to be able to stand over a ball from about 50 yards out and be confident.”

“For me, it would be my mentality,” Pace said. “My first tee shot of the day, I always have the worst anxiety, and I have so many thoughts stressing out through my head that I just want to hit perfect and just have a good start to the day. If I have one bad shot, I just really want to work on being able to get back on track and not have to worry about making every single little detail perfect.”