The Highland High School girls golf team made its final home match of the season a victorious one as the Lady Bulldogs dominated Belleville West and Triad to capture the title of a triangular match Wednesday, Sept. 6 at the par-36 nine-hole Highland Country Club.
On a cool, breezy day, Highland turned in a respectable four-player team score of 185 to beat Belleville West (209) by 24 strokes and Triad by (228) by 43 shots.
“Is this early September? It feels more like October,” Highland coach Gina Hirsch said. “With the winds blowing and the temperatures in the 60s, we got our first taste of what regional weather may be like. The wind altered our shots today but in most cases we were being helped by the wind.”
Hirsch said what seemed to cool down in the colder temperatures was the team’s putting.
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“We had several girls three-putting greens which is a big no-no that we talk about,” she said. “We talk about lagging the ball up to a manageable distance for your second putt. We just didn’t get a good feel on the greens. As the weather gets cooler, the greens thin a little bit and it makes the putt a little quicker.”
Playing in their final competitive match at Highland Country Club, Highland seniors Rece Portell and Gabi Berolatti shared match medalist honors to help pave the way to victory with identical rounds of 43.
Portell led the Bulldogs with the most pars in the round with five.
“She shot a lot better today but she is still struggling a little bit with the putter,” Hirsch said. of Portell.
Hirsch said Berolatti’s putter was hot and cold. On the fourth hole, she three-putted the green. Then on the very next hole, she almost drained a 25-foot putt.
Next on the scoring pylon for Highland was junior Audrey Wilke, who shot a 45.
“(Wilke) was pretty lethal with her wedge but her putter also let her down,” Hirsch said.
A big highight for Wilke was recording pars on her first three holes. After parring the ninth and first holes, Wilke hit a mammoth drive and was only about 85 yards from the green. She then hit her approach shot long and rolled off the back of the green. However, the junior put her chip shot about 5 feet from the hole, where she proceeded to one-putt the hole for a well-earned par.
Sewing up the fourth position was junior Geena Budwell with 54.
“I felt so bad for Geena on her third hole,” Hirsch said. “She hit her drive close to (Berolatti) who was on hole two and both girls were using the same ball with different numbers. (Budwell) hit (Berolatti’s) ball so she had to rectify her mistake and take a two-stroke penalty. Had she not had the penalty, she would have been under 50 for the first time. I am proud of her for not giving up and letting the mistake stay in her head.”
Also playing but not scoring for the Bulldogs were junior Kennedy Klucker (58) and freshman Claire Korte (59).
O’Fallon, Alton invites
On Friday, Highland finished ninth out of 14 teams at the O’Fallon Invitational at Tamarack Country Club in Shiloh.
Then on Saturday, the Bulldogs placed sixth out of 11 teams at the Alton Invitational at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Godfrey.
“Our most intense week of golf is over. Two 18-hole tournaments really gets the kids ready for postseason,” Hirsch said. “We didn’t do as well as I expected but there were some bright spots.”
Wilke led the way for the Bulldogs at both the O’Fallon and Alton tournaments.
Wilke had another 18-hole personal-best score with an 87 to tie for 15th place at the Alton tourney.
“Audrey is peaking at just the right time and she his hitting her shots so long,” Hirsch said.
Geena Budwell also continues to shave strokes off her 18-hole tournament scores. Geena even had a chip in at Rolling Hills.
Also scoring for Highland in the Alton tourney were Portell and Berolatti, who shot matching rounds of 92 to tie for 28th place; and Budwell (104, 47th place).
At the O’Fallon tourney at Tamarack, Wilke shot a 91 to place 21st.
Also posting scores for the Bulldogs were Portell and Berolatti, who shot identical rounds of 97 to share 35th place; and Budwell (105, tie for 53rd place).
“We still are struggling around the greens so this week’s practices will focus on that part of the game,” Hirsch said. “We look great off the tee but it is the short game that gets us in trouble. It is time to get the shag bags out and go back to muscle memory to cut down on our strokes we are throwing away. We have to get a lot better if we want to go on in postseason. The girls work so hard and every match they go into feeling like they are going to score well.
“Hopefully, all will click and they can get back on track. They really are a great group to work with.”