RUSSELL SPRINGS — Karisa Akin describes herself as "a pretty emotional person," but you wouldn't have known it watching her in the championship match of the 84th Women's State Amateur at Lakewood Country Club on Friday.
Akin was two holes down to Beverly Games with five holes to go, but she kept her cool as she waited for her putter to heat up.
Her patience paid off big time.
Starting at the 14th hole, Akin made three birdies in a row to seize the lead, then held on to win the title 1-up with a testy 7-foot par putt on No. 18.
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"This whole week has been so draining. You have to keep your emotions calm, and that's very hard for me to do," said Akin, a Central Hardin graduate who plays college golf at Middle Tennessee State.
"I did it, but I am worn out."
Akin never panicked in the finals because she was used to playing catch-up. She trailed in her last four matches, but she always found a way to win.
"I've been down all week, so I was used to being in that spot and coming back," she said. "I was prepared for it."
Her strong short game was a nice fit for the short (5,200 yards) Lakewood layout.
Games, a 1997 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, had the upper hand most of the afternoon.
She birdied the second and third holes to take an early 2-up lead. After Akin rallied to even the match, Games went 2-up again with a par on No. 10 and birdie on No. 13.
Then everything changed.
As Akin lined up a 15-foot birdie on No. 14, she told her dad/caddy, "I got it."
True to her word, she rolled in the putt for her first birdie of the day.
"Up until then, Karisa had been fighting herself all day," Steve Akin said. "It was like she was nervous, but not after that."
Akin tied the match with a sidewinder 6-foot birdie on No. 15, then took the lead with a 12-foot birdie on No. 16.
"She's a fighter, that's for sure," said Games, who like Akin is from Elizabethtown.
"There's nothing you can do when she goes birdie-birdie-birdie. That's fine. I don't mind losing to a birdie."
Games, who was also runner-up in 2008, surprised herself with a run to the finals. She had played only three rounds of golf this year before a practice round at Lakewood on Sunday.
"I'm pleased, I'm tired, and my back's hurting," Games said. "I work full time, and I have two kids.
"I hit a lot of great shots today, the best I've played all week, so I'm happy."
She looked it as she posed for a photo with her husband/caddy Andy Games, their son, Clay, 7, and daughter, Madeline, 3.
Akin, meanwhile, was delighted with adding a State Am title to the Kentucky Open crown she won in 2008.
She contended in last summer's State Am but fell to eventual champ April Emerson in the semifinals.
"That kind of stung me," she said. "I was ready to come back and win this thing."