With 12 tournament championships already stashed away for safe keeping heading into the Class 2A Girls Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin Sectional on Tuesday, its safe to say the O’Fallon Panthers had met or exceeeded all of their goals for the ‘16 season. Except one.
But on a day when they competed against the top Class 2A teams south of Chicago, the Panthers achieved their final goal of a second straight trip to the state tournament by doing what they do best — playing consistent golf.
Juniors Alyssa McMinn and Natalie Meinkoth both shots rounds of 81 to the way while Emily Marrs and Liz Boehning added solid rounds as O’Fallon moved on to the IHSA Class 2A State Girls Tournament with a second place at Illini Country Club.
The Panthers, with Emily Marrs adding an 84 and Liz Boehning adding a round of 91, finished with a total of 337, three strokes in back of champion Galesburg (334) and strokes better than third place Normal (351).. All three teams advance to the Class 2A State Tournament which begins on Friday at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.
This is the first time in O’Fallon girls golf history that the Panthers will be making back-to-back state tournament appearances. O’Fallon placed 12th in the ‘15 state finals.
“What does it mean? It It means that you are one of the top 12 teams in the state. We’re proud of these girls and what they have been able to accomplish this season. They have all worked very hard on their games and we’re looking forward to going up and playing at the state finals again,’’ O’Fallon coach Chris Eddy said, “We just want to go up and play as well as we can.’’
Three other local players also earned trips to the state finals. Collinsville Abbey Burns became the first Kahoks girls player since 1996 to qualify for the state finals as she shot an 81 on Tuesday, while Breanna Benardin and Edwardsville’s Kayla Weinacht both shot 87 then survived a playoff with three other players to advance to Decatur.
The trip to the state tournament will also be a historic one for the Panthers girls program which will be making back-to-back appearances in the state finals for the first time in school history. But while the Panthers may not have the one dominant player, what they do have is a team of players capable of recording four good scores each time out. On Tuesday, they did it again.
“We played well today. This (Illini Country) club is a difficult course and when you add the pressure of playing in the sectional, it makes it even more challenging,’’ Eddy said. “Alyssa and Natalie came out and gave us good rounds today and Emily Marrs being able to shoot 84 was a solid round as well.’’
“I was very pleased and happy for Liz (Boehning). She is our No. 6 player and for her to come out and tie her low round with a 91, was a big help in our advancing today.’’
Burns, Weinacht, Benardin advance
Collinsville standout Abbey Burns will be the first Kahoks player since the ‘96 season to play in the girls state tournament when she tees up on Friday. Collinsville’s top player, Burns got her round off to a good start as she made birdie on the first hole then went in to a top 5 finish in the individual competition.
“That was a nice way to to start my round. It gave me a little more confidence,’’ Burns said. “It was my only birdie, but I was able to play pretty well. The course was tough though and the greens were fast.’’
Weinacht and Bernadin both shot 87 and had to wait more than two hours to battle in a five player playoff for the last four state tournament bids. Benardin, a state qualifier a year ago, made a 15-foot birdie on the first playoff hole, while Weinacht and two other players also moved on.
Boys Class 2A Mattoon Golf Sectional
Alton Marquette senior Michael Holtz shot an even-par 72 to lead a balanced attack as the Explorers ran away with a 22-stroke win at the Class 2A Mattoon Boys Golf Sectional on Tuesday.
Still a newcomer in Class 2A after several years as a Class 1A power, Marquette finished with a team score of 310 as it rolled past Benton (332) and host Mattoon (345) for the title. All three schools advance to the Class 2A State Turnament which begins on Friday at Weibring Golf Course in Normal.
Four individuals from the metro east also earned trips to the state finals by recording scores of 84 or better. Althoff junior Dylan Davidson led the way, shooting a 2-over par 74, while seniors Drew Sobol of Wood River and Alex Gorman of Mascoutah shot rounds of 82 to advance.
Mater Dei freshman Grant Goebel claimed the tenth and final individual spot with a round 0f 84 on Tuesday.