Columbia, Althoff advance to Salem girls golf sectional

The Marquette Explorers made the most out of the home course advantage on Wednesday at the Class 1A Marquette Girls Golf Regional.

And the Columbia Eagles and Althoff Crusaders survived a very long day at the always tough and demanding Spencer T. Olin Golf Course.

Marquette juniors Ellie Kane and Lauren Walsh led a balanced Marquette lineup with rounds of 86 and 87 respectively and the Explorers went on to clinch the title with a 22-stroke win over Columbia.

On a day that saw many of the top Class 1A players in southern Illinois struggle for over six hours on the always challenging Arnold Palmer designed Spencer course, it was Marquette, finishing with a team score of 359, which prevailed over Cahokia Conference champion Columbia (381) and past defending state champion Althoff (383).

The regional title is the first in history for the Marquette girls program, which in the past has had more than its share of outstanding individual players such as former state champion Mary Ellen Jacobs. But on this day, the Explorers squad made history.

“I’m very pleased at how we played today. We had talked about how playing on our home course would be an advantage for us and it was,” Marquette coach Deb Walsh said. “But we still had to go out and execute the shots. This was not an easy day to play, but I couldn’t be any prouder of a group of girls.”

The win lifts Marquette along with Columbia and Althoff into the Class 1A Salem Sectional at Salem Country Club on Monday.

And while Marquette earned its first regional title on a beautiful fall day, Columbia, with its second-place finish, earned its first trip to the sectional tournament.

The dominant team in the Cahokia Conference, the Eagles got rounds of 92 from Katelyn Jonak, 95 from Clara Taake and scores of 96 from Zoe Hejna and 98 from Emily Allen. Like Walsh, Columbia coach Matt Duguay was pleased at how his team handled the pressure on such a tough golf course.

“The course played long and this afternoon when the sun came out, the greens really got much faster,” Duguay said. “I was very pleased at how we were able to play, especially coming down the the stretch. It was a team effort as well. We had five scores under 100.”

Althoff also extended its season for at least five more days. A state tournament medal winner a year ago, junior Tia Kimbrough led the way for first year coach Wayne Ockovic’s squad. Kimbrough shot 84 to place second overall behind Roxana junior Bailey Sharpmack, who shot 80.

Junior Megan Lewis added a 98 for the Crusaders, while sophomore Annie Pusa (99) and Maggie Tiernan (102) rounded out the top four players for Althoff. Ockovic, like many of his players, looked a little fatigued after surviving one of the most challenging, rugged courses in the metro-east with so much on the line.

“About six hours. That’s a long time on a golf course,” Ockovic said. “Olin is a tough course for some players. But I really couldn’t be any prouder of girls and the way they battled and played today. Especially down the stretch when we had to hit shots and execute that is exactly what we did.”

Individuals advancing on Wednesday included Mikaleen Lawrence (88) and Karlee Rongey (100) of Mater Dei, Rece Portell (91) and Audrey Wilke (94) of Highland and Meg Schnoeker (95), Erin Klasing (96) and Ashley Klasing (97) of Okawville.