Published May 15. 2012 4:00AM
Norwich - Barbara Wilson belongs to the Frequent Golfer Program.
Wilson plays for East Lyme High School and practices as much as she can in her free time, racking up miles driving to the golf course.
Her reward is an improved game and a bright future in the sport.
Wilson, a senior, earned medalist honors in the girls' nine-hole competition at the 40th Wildcat Invitational Monday at Norwich Golf Course. She shot a 5-over 41.
"She loves the game," East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos said. "I see her almost every weekend at Shennecossett (Golf Course) practicing with her father. It's good for her to start seeing some rewards."
Wilson outdistanced a 19-player field, beating runner-up and 2010 champion Kiana Hainsworth of Williams School by four strokes.
"I'm very happy," Wilson said.
Wilson, who's been playing golf for about nine years, had a consistent round, riding a reliable short game.
Her best shot came on the first hole, as she hit a downhill chip to within 10 feet and then putted home for par. She closed her round with a par on the final hole.
A member of the golf team for four years, Wilson has steadily improved, thanks in part to dedicating herself to the game during the summer months. She's participated in a Lake of Isles program for three years and played on the junior circuit.
"I take it seriously," Wilson said. "I've improved big time. I've been able to shoot better, play better and think around the course better."
Wilson will continue her playing career next fall at Jackson State in Mississippi. At first, she was lukewarm to the idea of going to school in Mississippi, but after a visit, she embraced it.
"It was different than I thought it was going to be," Wilson said. "I thought it was going to be boring. It turned out to be exciting."
For Norwich Free Academy, Jane Conway and Katie Strickland each had a 50 and Olivia Carignan shot a 51. No team scores were kept.
In the Wildcat Invitational boys' 18-hole event, NFA placed two golfers in the top 10. Sophomore Justin Bohara posted the lowest score out of all the Eastern Connecticut Conference golfers, tying for third with a 74, and junior Nick Kamireddy tied for sixth with a 76.
Bohara settled down after bogeying No. 3 and No. 4. He drained a short birdie putt on No. 17. Playing a practice round Sunday, Bohara gained confidence by firing a personal-best 69 at Norwich.
"I definitely knew that my swing was getting ready," he said. "I knew today if I just kept my confidence I should be able to play pretty well."
Kamireddy hoped for a better score but his putter let him down. On the front nine, he bogeyed the last three holes.
He recovered nicely, though, shooting 1-over on the back nine that included a birdie on No. 12.
"I enjoy the 18-hole tournaments a little more than nine holes because you have a better opportunity of coming back if you have a couple holes that don't go your way," Kamireddy said. "I was able to come back a little bit on the back."
Glastonbury's John Flaherty was the medalist with an even par 72 and Northwest Catholic's Brian Butler had a 73. Xavier won the team title with 311. Glastonbury (313), Northwest Catholic (314), Windham (325) and Woodstock (328) rounded out the top five.
Fran Shields shot a 79 to pace East Lyme (332) to seventh and NFA finished eighth with a 333. Waterford's Nick Hedden had a 78 and Griswold's Joey Barile carded an 81.