ALGONQUIN — Austin Niesel has played in many golf tournaments held by the McHenry County Junior Golf Association in past years and has always finished near the top. That includes one third-place finish, but he has never placed first.
But on Wednesday afternoon, the Burlington Central junior posted the low-round in the first MCJGA summer tournament of the year and finished atop the boys junior division with a score of 76 at Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin.
"It feels good for my first win," Niesel said while clutching his trophy. "I thought I played pretty good even though I struggled a bit on putting but I came around."
Despite the poor weather in the spring and this being the first MCJGA tournament of the summer, Niesel frequented golf courses as often as possible is order to prepare and up his game in order to move into the top three. If he saw the flags were up on the courses he would try to find some time to play. The work paid off as he finished three strokes ahead of second and third place finishers.
"I've been golfing since it was 40 degrees out," Niesel said. "Today, I birdied a couple holes and struck the ball well. I've just been waiting for a win because I've placed in the top 10 so many times."
Brad Spoeth, a senior at Huntley High School, won the boys senior division with a score of 77 and played near top form. Spoeth was confident in a top finish once he turned in his scorecard at the end of his round.
"I knew (last year's winner) Austin [Wiggerman] was playing pretty well, but he fell apart at the end so I knew I was up there," he said.
Kailey Lindholm finished first in the girls junior division with a 51 while Maddie Ogden (60) and Mia Belle McNeill (61) rounded out the top three.
The girls senior division was the tightest grouping of the tournament. The top three finishers were just two strokes apart. Huntley junior Gillian Young posted a nine-hole round of 40, good enough for first place. She defeated Larisa Luloff (41) and Emily Jean (42). The three each placed in the top three in last year's GCI Open as Luloff won, followed by Jean and Young.
Young said she didn't feel confident during a driving range session before her round as balls weren't going where she wanted but after the first hole, which she birdied, everything switched.
"It was a huge surprise and it kind of set the tone," she said of the first hole.
This summer will be Young's second year playing in MCJGA tournaments and she was a little nervous. But being paired with her good friend Brianna DiGrazia helped allow Young to relax and have a good time while not worrying about where she would finish.
"I was playing with one of my friends and I ended up having a good time," Young said. "It feels awesome, because last year I didn't really place and I wasn't even counting my score until I got [in the clubhouse] and I didn't think I would win, so it's fun."