While playing the 36th hole at the Class 2A girls state golf tournament earlier this fall at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur, O’Fallon senior Alyssa McMinn got a little emotional.
It was the final hole of her high school career and McMinn, who was tied for the lead with three other players after shooting an even-par 72 in the first round, was on her way to the best state-tournament performance in school history.
She shot a 2-over 74 in the second round, finishing with a fourth-place medal in a field of 110 of the top players in Illinois.
That’s not why McMinn was emotional.
“I realized that this was it. This would be the last time I would be representing O’Fallon High School in a golf tournament,” she said. “I had been part of a team that had reached the state finals three years in a row and each year we played better and finished higher than we did the year before. I was very proud what we had accomplished as a team.
“But being a member of this golf team has been so much fun. We were competitive with each other. But we are also so close. We’re like a family.”
In 2017, McMinn and the Panthers “family” had a season to remember.
After a 12th-place finish in 2015 and a 10th-place finish in 2016, O’Fallon shot 632, 20 strokes better than last season. The Panthers’ top five players each averaged 83.5 or better at Hickory Point in early October to lead their team to a seventh-place finish.
Honored as the Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year, McMinn saved the best for last.
The rounds of 72 and 74 at the state finals were the best of her high-school career. She leaves the O’Fallon program as the owner of 11 school records, including the lowest 9-hole average (38.3) and the lowest 18-hole tournament average (77.4).
McMinn’s success is all the more impressive when considering that she has been swinging the club for just during her four years.
“I was a soccer player. It was my dad (Lonnie McMinn) who got me started,” McMinn said. “Once I started playing, I just really liked it. This past summer, I played in a lot of tournaments, several in the Gateway PGA and a few bigger ones as well. I just worked on becoming more consistent with my short game and more accurate.
“I didn’t win any of my tournaments, but I played very well for the most part and just had a very good summer.”
Chris Eddy prepared his Panthers for state by entering them in events all over the state during the regular season.
I realized that this was it. This would be the last time I would be representing O’Fallon High School in a golf tournament.
McMinn, meeting the challenge, won individual championships at the (O’Fallon) Panthers Invitational, Edwardsville Invitational, Normal University Classic and the Southwestern Conference Tournament. McMinn won six tournament titles in her career.
But McMinn was at her very best at Hickory Point during the second weekend in October.
“Alyssa put in a tremendous amount of time and hard work on her game,” Eddy said. “You always want to be playing at your very best at the end of the year and Alyssa shooting the lowest two rounds of her career on the same weekend at the state tournament. She was at her best. For someone who followed her all weekend, she was just tremendous. It was a lot of fun to watch.
“She was 3-under par heading to the 16th hole and got a couple of bad breaks to shoot 72. Then she comes out the next day and shoots 74 to finish two shots back at 146. That’s very good golf.”
McMinn, 17, will continue her playing career the next four years at the University of Evansville.
“I’ve been looking there for the past year. I finally made my decision. Everything fell into place and it feels so much better now to know where I’ll be going. The whole recruitment process ... takes a lot of time,” McMinn said.
“I just love the campus. It’s so pretty. It’s a small school. It’s about as big as O’Fallon (High School) is. The coach (Jim Hamilton), he’s great. Just the vibe I get from it was a fit for me.”
One adjustment all college players must make is the added length of the college golf courses compared to those they play at the high school level. McMinn feels she is ready for the challenge.
“When you get to the college level, you’re going to be playing 6,000, 6,100 yards, so for that, the physical side of it, you have to hit the ball straight and long to get the scores that are going to count,” McMinn said. “But it’s also mental because 6,100 gets in your head more. There’s much more you have to take into consideration.
“All the coaches stress how big of a mental game it is. I’ve been able to kind of control my emotions and my thoughts throughout the last four years.”
Still, her voice cracked several times when asked about what Eddy and being a part of the O’Fallon golf program has meant to her during the past four years.
“Coach ... he’s been there for all of us. He is just so knowledgeable about the the game and what it takes to be successful,” McMinn said. “He has taught us a lot but he’s also made it fun. Golf is a game and its supposed to be fun.”
Reporter David Wilhelm contributed to this story.
2017 All Area Girls Golf Team
These are the players named to the 2017 Metro East Golf Coaches Association/Belleville News-Democrat All Area Girls Golf Team:
Player of the Year
- Alyssa McMinn, O’Fallon, sr.
Coaches of the Year
- Chris Eddy, O’Fallon
- Doug Kell, Nashville
Class AA First Team
- Morgan Bemis, Alton, sr.
- Brooke Boatman, O’Fallon, sr.
- Elizabeth Boehning, O’Fallon, sr.
- Page Hamel, Edwardsville, sr.
- Emily Marrs, O’Fallon, sr.
- Briana McMinn, O’Fallon, soph.
- Natalie Meinkoth, O’Fallon, sr.
- Addasyn Zeller, Edwardsville, sr.
Class A First Team
- Rachael Kell, Nashville, sr.
- Brooke Bartling, Nashville, sr.
- Jordan Stiegman, Nashville, sr.
- Hope Rueter, Nashville, sr.
- Ellie Kane, Marquette, sr.
- Bailey Sharpmack, Roxana, sr.
- Tia Kimbrough, Althoff, sr.
- Rece Portell, Highland, sr
Class A and AA team (one combined list)
- Jessica Benson, Edwardsville; Gabi Berolatti, Highland; Chloe Davidson, O’Fallon; Hannah Davis, Belleville East; Breanna Haas, Belleville East; Remy Heinen, Waterloo; Zoe Henja, Columbia; Destiny Johnson, Collinsville; Annie Kane, Marquette; Megan Keel, Granite City; Sophie Koesterer, O’Fallon; Katy Kratschmer, Marquette; Mikaela Kossina, Columbia; Megan Lewis, Althoff; Ashley Osterhage, Gibault; Carmen Phillips, Civic Memorial; Isabella Roberts, Civic Memorial; Sydney Sahuri, Edwardsville; Meara Schaefer, Edwardsville; Lilly Schlemmer, Valmeyer; Casey Wagner, Columbia; Lauren Walsh,Marquette; Audrey Wilke, Highland