The Lady Panther golf team’s magic extended into the post-season last week as they parlayed drives straight down the fairway and laser-like efficiency on the greens to capture the Illinois High School Association regional championship trophy. With their top three players breaking 80, the O’Fallon girls scored a convincing 23-stroke victory over second place Edwardsville to claim the crown.
Junior standout Emily Marrs led the charge, firing a 74 to earn individual medalist honors in the 10-team field. Her closest competition for the top golfer in the tourney came from teammate Alyssa McMinn, who solidified O’Fallon’s stranglehold on the tournament championship by finishing the 18-hole event just two strokes behind Marrs. Edwardsville’s Addasyn Zeller was third with a 79.
The lethal one-two punch at the top of the leader board produced by Marrs and McMinn was augmented by outstanding rounds carded by Natalie Meinkoth, who shot a 79, and Brooke Boatman, who ended the day with an 84. The win by the Lady Panthers was the 11th major tournament win of 2016, solidifying their claim as the best girls’ golf team in OTHS history.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of what these girls have accomplished over the course of the season,” said OTHS coach Chris Eddy. “They started the season playing outstanding individual and team golf and just kept improving each week. When someone had an ‘off’ day, she was picked up by at least one of her teammates. Each of our players has worked extremely hard to improve her game. The results speak for themselves. It has been a phenomenal year.”
The O’Fallon girls’ record-breaking run of major tournament victories ended on Tuesday when they were edged by Galesburg in the IHSA sectional tournament in Springfield. Solid scoring was good enough for the OTHS squad to advance to the state finals but not quite enough to capture their 12th straight tourney title. The Galesburg Silver Streaks edged the Panthers by three strokes 334 to 337. Alyssa McMinn and Natalie Meinkoth were the top scorers for O’Fallon — each shooting 81. Emily Marrs, the regional medalist, posted an 84, and junior Liz Boehning rounded out the Panthers’ top four with a 91.
“Our goal from the beginning of the season was to qualify as a team for the state finals, and our girls accomplished that on Tuesday,” Eddy said. “It was disappointing to see our run of victories end, but we will still be playing this weekend. That’s what counts.”
The OTHS boys’ team found the regional tournament field a bit tougher than their female counterparts. The Panthers played competitively throughout the day; however, when the team totals were tallied, the local linksters came up two strokes short of team qualification for the sectional tourney. Edwardsville, Quincy and Belleville East advanced. Belleville East snared the final team qualification slot with a 335. The Panthers finished with a 337.
Despite missing out in the team standings, three OTHS individual golfers shot well enough to be included in the sectional field. Topping the list for O’Fallon was senior Logan Harris, who carded an 82. One stroke behind Harris was freshman Logan Lowery, who capped an exceptional first varsity season with an 18-hole total of 83. O’Fallon’s third sectional qualifier, senior Chase Holland finished his round with an 85.
Moving from regional to sectional play this past Monday, none of the three OTHS players could overcome a talented group of golfers. Capping an exceptional season with the promise of even better scores in the future, Lowery carded the best round for the Panthers. Lowery completed the 18-hole circuit with an 83 and a 33rd overall.
Harris, who amassed the most consistent numbers throughout the fall campaign, fell back in the pack to end his excellent high school career with an 85 and a 46th place finish. Holland also had difficulties on the demanding course, ending his career with a round of 96.