Jun. 28—Nevada girls golf coach Brian Leonard always knew he had a special player in Emree Cameron — even before she took to the course for her first prep tournament last fall.
And it wasn't long into the season before the Tigers' freshman phenom was catching the attention of others.
"I knew before the season started that she was capable of shooting par in every tournament she competed in," Leonard said. "Our first tournament was over in Springfield — against a really, really good program in Springfield Catholic, of course — and she held her own. She was right in the mix with some big names and ended up taking fourth.
"After that tournament, I thought to myself, 'OK, I'm interested to see how she's going to do.' I knew she had played some big tournaments before in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) and things like that, but sometimes in high school, the nerves can get to you. Then, of course, she went on to win the next four tournaments she played in."
Cameron has been named the Globe's girl golfer of the year for the 2021-22 school year.
The freshman finished the fall season with five tournament titles as well as a fourth-place finish in the Class 2 State Tournament on Oct. 18-19 at Columbia Country Club in Columbia, Missouri.
Cameron battled illness during the state tournament but managed to card back-to-back rounds of 80 to finish at 160 in the two-day event. Marshfield's Marlene Edgeman claimed the individual state title at 151, while Osage's Hanna Maschhoff (155) and Westminister Christian Academy's Elizabeth Johnson (157) placed second and third, respectively, among the 80-player field.
"The crazy thing about the state tournament for Emree was that I almost had to pull her out of it because she was visibly sick on the first day," Leonard said. "She was dehydrated and shaking after the first nine holes. ... So we ended up taking a 15-minute break to get her some Gatorade and peanut butter crackers in her, but she struggled to keep the food down. But sure enough, she came back out for the back nine and ended up shooting an 80 to end the first day and then 80 again on the second day, which is very respectable for state golf.
"I think her first year up there really opened her eyes to see what the competition is like. I think she'll be even more ready for them next year."
Cameron averaged an 18-hole score of 74.89 on the season. Her lowest 18-hole score came on Sept. 24 when she shot a one-under-par 71 to win the individual title at the Nevada Lady Tigers Invitational at Frank E. Peters Municipal Golf Course.
The first-place finish by Cameron helped Nevada claim the team title at its home tournament for the first time since the annual event was created by Leonard in 2005.
"We had never won the tournament, but to start off with, Emree wasn't used to playing on a team because she had always played as an individual," Leonard said. "I think that weekend was when the team really welcomed her in. She started melding with the team really well, and I think that tournament was probably the most exciting for the whole team, including her.
"I have to admit, I cried. I cried my eyes out. It was very emotional. Just to have all of the girls playing together as a team and winning as a team, it was a very sweet and emotional moment for all of us."
The first tournament title claimed by Cameron was the Seneca Invitational on Sept. 9 at Eagle Creek Golf Course, where she carded a two-under 72 — a school and state record — to lead the Tigers to a first-place team finish. It marked Nevada's first team title in 17 years under Leonard.
Cameron won individual titles in the Joplin Invitational (Schifferdecker Golf Course), the Carthage Invitational (Carthage Municipal Golf Course) and the Class 2 District 3 Tournament (Cassville Golf Course).
In a home triangular match against McDonald County and Stockton at Frank E. Peters on Oct. 7, Cameron logged her lowest nine-hole score of the season by carding a six-under 30, which also set a new state record.
"I was very pleased with her season," Leonard said. "I know how she can play, so I was very pleased to see her continue to play that way. ... Again, she has three more years of high school. So I'm sure plenty more records will be shattered by her in the future.
"I think she is one of the hardest-working golfers I've coached, right along with (Nevada boys golf standout Owen Swearingen). She's a student of the game and she takes pride in her ability to outwork others. There's no doubt in my mind that she'll be playing Division I golf one day."
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.