CARY — Athens Drive freshman Emilia Migliaccio is one of the nation’s top junior golfers and thus tournament-tested, but it’s unlikely she will again encounter the unnerving scene that unfolded in her first high school conference championship.
Migliaccio and her playing partners, Green Hope junior Meghan Symonds and Holly Springs senior Leigha Holt, were on the No. 5 green Wednesday at in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference tournament at Lochmere Golf Club when U.S. Marshals, assisted by Cary policemen, chased a suspect on foot.
The suspect ran across the green and threw his coat as the Marshals and police shouted to the girls to get down on the ground. Once the suspect was apprehended about 30 yards from the green, Migliaccio finished her par putt on No. 5, but she missed a 4 1/2-foot putt for a bogey on No. 6.
“I was a little shaky after that,” said Migliaccio, who was able to laugh off the incident afterward in which the players were never in real danger.
Miglicaccio shot a 3-over-par 38 on the front nine, but she recovered with a 4-under 32 on the back nine for her tournament winning score of 1-under 70.
“I didn’t play well on the front nine,” said the 14-year-old Miglicaccio, North Carolina’s top-ranked junior and No. 23 player in the nation for girls 18 years and under. “But I was proud of the way I came back on the back nine.”
U.S. Marshal Bryan Konig explained the Marshals attempted arrest the suspect on federal probation violation in Raleigh and a car chase ensued. The suspect crashed his car into a tree near the course and fled on foot.
“Kudos to the girls for playing through it,” Konig said.
Symonds and Holt also recovered from the scene to finish strong rounds. Symonds was second with a 73 (36-37) and Holt third with a 74 (40-34).
“We told the girls they were filming of scene of ‘ Law and Order’ and just testing their nerves,” said Green Hope assistant coach Kathy Bounds.
Symonds led Green Hope to the SWAC tournament title that also clinched the overall SWAC season title for the Falcons. She teamed with Amanda Yannoni (79) and Sophie Riegel (84) for a team score of 236 that edged Holly Springs’ 239 total.
“I started out putting rough,” Symonds said. “But I was hitting the ball great and I was able to get my putting back on the back nine.”
It was Green Hope’s third straight overall conference title and second straight conference tournament title. The Falcons haven’t finished lower than runner-up since 2006.
“We had a great team atmosphere this year that really helped us out,” Yannoni said. “We had more competition in the conference this year, but we worked well together and helped each other improve.”
Migliaccio finished her first year of high school golf as the tournament champion as well as SWAC Player of the Year.
“I really enjoyed representing my school,” Migliaccio said. “People asked me how I played in tournaments. I played with different girls and made a lot of new friends.”
Despite stealing the thunder of older players, Symonds and Holt said Migliaccio was welcomed onto the scene.
“I’m happy for her winning the conference,” Symonds said. “She’s a great golfer and I enjoy playing with her. She’ll tell you ‘good shot’ when you hit a good shot.”
Added Holt, “I’m glad she’s playing high school golf. She’s great competition. I like to watch her hit the ball. I know I have to play my best when I play with her.”