NICEVILLE — Winning middle school county titles is one thing. Dominating a prestigious tournament with a red number is a whole new ballgame.
Yes, Destin's Madison Tenore is a big deal. Thursday's 1-under-par finish to the lightning-shortened Marvin DeBolt Daily News Classic at Eglin Golf Course validates that.
"It feels good and this is a huge step. I'm absolutely stoked," said Tenore, who followed up Wednesday's 2-under par 70 with a back-side 37 before the horn sounded. "I know I could have done better, but I managed to finish 1-under for the first time in a tournament like this. It feel pretty unbelievable."
Believe it. And believe in Niceville High's chances at state next season.
That's where the Destin native is headed for the next four years, a home she called her "dream school."
Already a powerhouse with district and regional titles the norm, the Eagles undoubtedly gets stronger with the addition of Tenore and fellow freshman Alia Scotka (Thursday's winner of the 12-14 division at 7-over) to pair alongside state medalist Lauren Miller, Madisyn Messmore, Kaide Farne, Paola Rosario and Rachel Smith.
"The level of golf there compared to middle school, it's like there's finally competition," Tenore said. "There's so much talent there. I'm just looking forward to contributing ."
Back to Thursday's win, just how dominant was it?
Tenore was the lone female under par for the tournament.
The runner-up, Empress Hawkins-Kimmel, finished eight strokes off the lead.
Out of the 27 holes, Tenore made six birdies. That's as many as second and third place combined.
And the red number and gap would have been larger had it not been for a three-hour lightning delay that forced tournament officials to call the event nine holes short of its 36-hole completion. It also would have been larger had it not been for a double bogey on her opening hole, No. 10.
A wayward drive forced her into a 6 on the par-4, a mistake easily fixable by sharpening her mental game.
"I just got to work on the small things, like not hitting driver when I don't need to," she said.
A 4-under front nine on Wednesday exposed how low Tenore can go. It's that momentum she takes with her to next week's Divot Derby and the final Florida Junior Tour summer showcases.
"A win like this definitely boosts my confidence because I play in FJT tournaments and those are a really big deal," she said. "So knowing that I can shoot under par helps me go places like Tampa with confidence. Shooting under par here proves I can play with the best players."
1. Tenore, Madison -1
2. Hawkins-Kimmel, Empress +7
3. Pacheco, Payton +9
4. Edwards, Sarah +10
5. Messmore, Madisyn +11
6. Collins, Melanie +14
7. Rosario, Paola +15
8. Farne, Kaide +16
9. Reeder, Colby +20
10. Moody, Taylor +23
11. Burroughs, Ashley +32
1. Scotka, Alia +7
2. Todd, Shawneen +59