Paul Laurence Dunbar girls' golf coach Susan McGrath instilled a simple philosophy in her girls this season:
"Our motto is, 'Have fun out there and the rest will come,'" McGrath said after the Bulldogs had a ball while winning the 7th Region championship Monday afternoon at Kearney Hill Links.
The victory improved Dunbar's record to 8-0 in competition this year and earned it a trip to the Leachman/KHSAA State Tournament in Bowling Green next week.
Henry Clay was runner-up and qualified for the state for the fifth consecutive year.
Madison Central junior Tristyn Nowlin was region medalist. She birdied the last two holes for a 1-under 71.
Nowlin, who's played varsity since she was a fourth-grader, said the birdie at No. 17 "really pumped me for the last hole."
She bombed a 280-yard drive on the par-5 18th and had just 113 yards in. She missed the green on her approach, but salvaged birdie by rolling in a 15-foot putt.
"I really, really wanted to make that and get a red number on the board," she said.
Dunbar's team victory left McGrath "feeling so proud" of her girls. "They're just amazing. They play this individual sport like a team. They play for each other."
Rachel Fine, a junior, bogeyed the first two holes but steadied herself and led Dunbar with a 1-over par 73.
"There were a lot of good teams out here, and we were fortunate to come through today," Fine said. "But I believed in our team."
Madison Saladin, a senior, fired a career-low 74. Shelby Campbell, a junior, added an 81, Rebecca Fine (Rachel's twin sister) had an 82, and freshman Sarah Black a 91.
"I got to go to state last year as an individual and I loved it," Saladin said. "But having my team going with me this year is an experience I can't wait to happen."
Dunbar's total (four lowest scores) of 311 was four shots better than two-time defending champ Henry Clay.
"(Kearney) is our home course, so we had a little bit of an advantage there," McGrath said. "The girls were pretty relaxed, but this being the region, there were a few tense moments.
"But overall, they came out and played great."
Henry Clay was led by defending region champ Leslie Ginter and Kie Purdom, who carded 74s. Sara Bidarian had a 78. Margaret Clifton shot 89 and Leah-Mabry Sims a 93.
"The girls played really good," Devils Coach Kevin Mims said. "Dunbar just put up some tough numbers."
Besides Nowlin, the other individual state qualifiers were MacKenzie Neal of Madison Central, Caroline McDonald of Boyle County and Jane Watts of Woodford County. They each shot 75.