Rachael Kell was a good player on a better-than-average Nashville High School girls golf team during the 2015 season.
But at Nashville, a place where the trophy cases are full of state tournament trophies, being good isn’t enough.
As a sophomore, Kell never had a score under 90. One year later, the daughter of Hornettes girls golf coach Doug Kell, Rachel Kell placed 29th in the Class A Girls State Golf Tournament as she helped the Hornettes to a second place finish.
The finish, which occurred at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur in October, was a golf experience that Kell won’t soon forget.
“I would say the golf season was more than I expected it would be because last year I never ever broke 90,” Kell said. “Then in my last summer tournament this year, I had 79. It was the first time I had broken 80
“My dad and I had a talk about me trying to have more focus on the golf course. I think that helped. Plus I started lifting weights a little bit and got stronger.”
An excellent all-around athlete, Kell finished just a stroke behind partner Hope Rueter at the state finals, finishing with a score of 169. The pair has been named the Belleville News-Democrat Class A co-players of the Year.
Like most Nashville players, Kell used her length off the tee, solid iron play and and better-than-average short game to take her game to the next level.
“I think I improved in all areas of the game actually,” Kell said. “I think that because I’m pretty long off the tee I have a mental edge over a lot of the other players because I’m hitting maybe 8 or 9 irons in to where they are hitting 6-iron or 7-iron coming in.
“Plus, last year I was kind of a head case if I had a bad hole, I would kind of lose it a little bit. I cried a lot last year until I realized that I must look like an idiot out there crying. I think its just a matter of growing up a little bit and realizing that when you hit a bad shot or have a bad hole, it’s not the worst thing in the world. You just have to forget about it and come back on the next one.”
In 2016, Kell and the Hornettes did come back. After not qualifying for the state tournament as a team in 2015, Nashville may have been the second best team in southern Illinois this season behind Class AA power behind O’Fallon. They also came back at the state finals. Trailing eventual state champion Charleston heading into the second day, the Hornettes took the lead midway through the final round.
But state champion Charleston and individual state champion Lauren Chappel, of Charleston, were able to win the titles.
“We gave it a run. We won the second day of a two-day tournament. We just didn’t win it by enough strokes to make up the 11 we were behind after day one,” Nashville coach Doug Kell said. “These girls did what every team has ever done since I became coach and that’s come in and worked very hard.
“I really enjoy coaching my daughter. She’s a great young lady. I probably get on her more harshly as times than I do the other girls and she hears it at home sometimes, even though I try not to bring it home. I coached my son last year in track and both my kids have been successful at state. You can’t beat that.”