The O’Fallon Panthers continued their assault on the record books while staking a claim as one of the top Class AA girls golf programs in the state by winning the prestigious Pekin Invitational on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Panthers settled for just simply being the best in the Southwestern Conference.
Junior Natalie Meinkoth tied for the low round of the day with a 77 and three O’Fallon teammates added rounds of 80 or lower as O’Fallon breezed to a 27- stroke win at the Southwestern Conference Girls Golf Tournament at Belk Park Golf Course.
The Panthers, whose only loss in an otherwise perfect season came to Edwardsville by two strokes when the two SWC super powers met in a dual match earlier this month, finished with a team score of 314, well ahead of the Tigers (341) and Collinsville (358). The win by O’Fallon on Tuesday and the undefeated SWC dual record by Edwardsville makes the Panthers and Tigers the co-champions for the season.
It was also the eighth tournament win of the season for the Panthers, who have two regular season tournaments remaining before the Class AA Regional on Oct. 5 at Oak Brook Golf Course in Edwardsville.
But at least for the day, O’Fallon and coach Chris Eddy would be enjoying its share of the SWC title.
“It’s been a while,” Eddy said when asked about the last Panthers championship. “For us its about consistency and to have four scores 77 to 80 and then get a career low (87) from our No. 5 player, Brianna (McMinn), I’m pleased. It was breezy and the greens were fast. These are the type of conditions that we’ll see the rest of the year and in the postseason. A 314 is a good score.”
On a cool, breezy early fall afternoon it was the Panthers who were near their best. Meinkoth, who tied Edwardsville junior Addasyn Zeller for the low round of the day at 77, but lost a three-hole sudden death playoff for medalist honors, paced the O’Fallon attack.
Alyssa McMinn added a 78 for O’Fallon which also had 2015 Belleville News-Democrat Class 2A Player of the Emily Marrs, shoot a 79 and Brooke Boatman add an 80. The Panthers foursome also swept the second through fifth spots in the final individual standings behind Zeller.
Collinsville’s Abbey Burns placed sixth overall with an 82, while Edwardsville’s Kayla Weinacht (86) and Jessica Benson (87) rounded out the top eight players — all of which were all-Southwestern Conference selections.
“Winning on Saturday was big for this program because we saw some very good teams in Normal and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin who we will probably see a tthe sectional in a couple of weeks should we get there. But winning here today was also big for our girls,” Eddy said. “Right now we’re just focused on these last two regular season tournaments and then regional next Wednesday. We aren’t looking ahead.”
Zeller wins title
Zeller needed 21 holes to do it, but the No. 1 player from Edwardsville outlasted Meinkoth when she won a sudden death playoff for the SWC individual title on Tuesday.
After finishing tied at 77, both players made routine pars on the first extra hole then made bogies on the second hole. But when Meinkoth hit her drive on the par 3 157-yard No. 3 hole to the right of the green, Zeller took advantage.
The Tigers standout hit her 6-iron off the tee to within 8 to 10 feet and calmly rolled in the birdie putt to win the title.
“It was playing about 157 yards,” Zeller said. “The putt was about 8 to 10 feet and I trusted my line. I hit a good putt and it went in. It feels good to win the conference tournament.”