KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Keystone Heights High freshman Camille Jackson had been home-schooled for three years prior to entering Keystone Heights High School and the result was staying home on the …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Keystone Heights High freshman Camille Jackson had been home-schooled for three years prior to entering Keystone Heights High School and the result was staying home on the family’s 53-acre farm; reading, writing and ‘rithmatic-ing and throwing in an hour of golf every now and then.
“Camille and her sister, Candace, an eighth grader, both started young following me around when I was a scratch amateur and I just tried to teach them, first, the rules, and then the little techniques to get better,” said her father, Billy Jackson, a professional firefighter in Gainesville and in his third year as coach of girls golf at Keystone Heights. “They kind of picked up some of what I was saying and got better and better.”
For Camille Jackson, the “better” has been good enough for a second trip to the FHSAA Class 1A state tournament to be held Nov. 7-8 at the Mission Inn and Resort in Howey-in-the-Hill as she tries to best her 41st place finish from last year.
“I’ve improved my putting a lot since that tournament with, I think, 13 putts the most for a nine hole match this year,” said Jackson, who finished first in both her district tournament and as the top individual qualifier with her 78 at the region 2-1A tournament last week at Fleming Island Golf Course.
Jackson, though, almost lost the district title on her ninth hole; the 18th hole at Ironwood Golf Course in Gainesville, when she scored an eight after a series of disastrous hits. Jackson’s group started at hole 10 at Ironwood in the 18 hole match.
“I had to hit out of a hazard on the par four, so I had a penalty shot from there,” said Jackson. “Dad told me to chip out to the green, but I went for the green.”
Jackson successfully hit off the hazard, but landed in front of a sand bunker.
“I duffed into the bunker, then skulled over the green to the other side of the hole,” said Jackson. “I chipped up then three putted for the eight.”
Coach (and dad) Billy Jackson left the scene prior to the three putts.
“As she was compounding her mistakes, I was watching her mid-course collapse after scoring an even score par to that point,” said Billy Jackson. “The girl in second, from Oak Hall, birdied for a five shot swing in the score. Camille stayed in the game and pulled it out though with a 78.”
Jackson eagled the last hole to finish first at districts with a series of second nine pars with sister Candace coming on strong to tie the scores at 75 before the 18th hole.
“I eagled the final hole and she hit an eight,” said Camille Jackson who won at 78 with Candace second at 82. “I knew we were tied. She didn’t and she hit first so I knew what I would need to win.”
At the region meet, Jackson’s 78 was behind four girls; leader Celeste Valinho, a junior at team runnerup Providence who shot a crazy 68; then two 74s; one from Providence, one from team champions Bolles and a 77 from a second Bolles girl.
Ironically, Candace Jackson’s worst hole was at regions at Fleming Island where she hit into a sand bunker that was wet from rain.
“It just stuck deep in the sand and I shot an eight,” said Candace Jackson.
Billy Jackson noted that Candace Jackson had her best round at districts to be the team’s second player at regions before having her worse round at regions.
“It just flows back and forth with them,” said Jackson. “I call it a sniveling rivalry because if one wins, the other snivels.”
The Jacksons have the advantage somewhat with their golf-friendly farm having a driving range complete with markers denoting distances, a putting green off the nearby Keystone Heights Golf Club and the remnants of a bunkered former 13th hole that was part of the Keystone Heights course until Jackson bought the land.
“We made the distance markers out of aluminum sheets so we could hear them if they were out here,” said Jackson. “Plus, I knew they were hitting straight consistently if I heard the hits because they are all in a line in the field.”
Jackson sees her game as a short game with her knack for good putting.
“The course at Mission Inn is very hilly and long,” said Camille Jackson. “I feel more confident with last year as experience to kind of have a better feel for where I can make up some shots.”
Jackson finished 41st last year with a 165 total score off rounds of 83 and 82. Lake Mary Prep sophomore Mimi Chen won with a 136 (70-66) score beating out teammate Zihuan Zhou, a senior, at 139 (68-71). Valinho, the region champion, finished 20th at state last year with a 152 (77-75).