WOMEN'S GOLF: Former Central Hardin star Akin advances to State Am final (06/28)

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Karisa Akin knew going in Thursday is the most difficult day in the Women’s Kentucky State Golf Association State Amateur, but she didn’t realize how challenging this day was going to be.

Akin edged Taylor County junior Ellen Kehoe 1-up in the quarterfinals and then beat Eastern Kentucky sophomore Becky Sharpe 2-up in the semifinals at the par-73, 5,526-yard Crooked Creek Country Club in London.

After a grueling match with Kehoe, Sharpe had an edge after not having to play in the morning session when Russell County senior Brianne Coe withdrew. Not to mention, Crooked Creek Country Club is Sharpe’s home course.

“It is always tough, but it was much tougher today,” Akin said. “Becky didn’t have to play that first match today and it was at her home course. It was tougher than usual, but it’s actually what I needed. It was probably fun for spectating, but not fun matches to play in until it was done.”

Akin reached the championship for the third time in the last four years. She won the Women’s Am in 2010 and ’12. Akin will meet a familiar foe and another two-time champion in April Emerson, who won titles in 2009 and ’11. The match starts at 8:40 a.m. today.

“I try not to get too up right now,” Akin said. “What I’ve realized is how much I miss it. Golf and competing is in my blood. Hitting certain shots and making putts in pressure situations is what I do. This has been really enjoyable even though I haven’t played much in the last year.”

Akin has shown no signs of rust.

After Kehoe won the 16th hole, Akin rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the next hole to tie the match. It was her second huge putt on the 17th hole in as many days, clinching Wednesday’s win with a 40-foot birdie putt.

Akin pulled out the win with a par on the 18th hole to set up a showdown with Sharpe.

Sharpe got off to hot start, building a 3-up lead after seven holes. But Akin turned the match around by winning the next three holes to pull all square.

“I told my dad (Steve) that I didn’t want to worry too much about it,” Akin said. “I was already so tired that I didn’t want to exert any energy worrying about it. I just kept playing. It felt good to come back like that.”

After Sharpe won the 11th hole, Akin took control of the match by winning holes 13, 14 and 15 and then holding on for the victory. She has won nine consecutive matches and 15 of her last 16 in the championship flight.

“I was hitting my irons close,” Akin said of the three-hole stretch that won it. “I think I was within 10 feet on those holes. I was struggling with the greens because they are so slow. But I finally started getting the speed of the greens and that’s big. I’ve always thought the Am comes down to putting. You have to make putts to win.”

Dennise Mudd of River Trace Golf at Meade Activity Center lost to Jenny Lamkin 3 and 1 in the second flight semifinals.