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Chief steps up to challenge

Brooke Layton led Chamberlain back to the state tournament for a fourth consecutive year.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2001

TAMPA -- Chamberlain coach Frank George tries to restrain himself when he talks about Brooke Layton, but sometimes it just gets too hard.

George doesn't want to overstate things, but when he looks back at Layton's season, he can't help but get a little excited.

"Brooke played so good all year long," George said. "She never missed anything."

While that's not entirely true -- Layton would be the first to admit missing a few putts at the Class 2A state tournament -- it certainly must have seemed that way to most of her competitors.

The Chief ended the season with a county-best 36 scoring average for nine holes and finished sixth at state despite a five-stroke dropoff from the first round to the second. Layton began playing golf when she was about 6 years old, enjoying summer camps at Avila or just hitting the ball around.

Those camps turned into a prep career that included three state team titles and a seventh-place team finish last month.

"It was nice," Layton said of her senior season. "It was a lot more fun, actually, even though we didn't win the state title. I played a lot better than I had in the past."

Her role was even more magnified when junior Mallory Code missed most of the season, which left Layton and fellow senior Jennifer Stanley, junior Chelsie Hughes and freshman Kara Sprague as the main contributors.

Layton knew Chamberlain's chance to four-peat as state champion was going to be difficult, but that didn't factor into her play one bit.

After finishing as district runner-up and leading the Chiefs to a 34-stroke regional tournament victory, Layton found herself back at state for the fourth consecutive year, and this time the idea of winning an individual title wasn't that farfetched.

The thought came even closer to realization when the first round ended with Layton sitting in second place with 70.

"I was kind of hoping I might be able to win state," Layton said.

On Day 2, Layton started out like she would do just that with birdies on three of the first four holes to make her charge.

"Then I kind of choked," Layton said. "I got nervous and started thinking about it."

The result was 75 and a two-day total of 145, good for sixth overall.

Next year, Layton will play at Rollins College in Winter Park, passing up Division I schools for the chance to play close to home. It was a choice Layton said was easy to make.

"(Rollins) had been looking at me for a while," she said. "Plus, I liked the coach over there and the people at the school. And it's kind of close by, I liked that too."

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