BULL VALLEY – Lauren Kempf had a standout performance both days at the McHenry County Junior Amateur at Boone Creek Golf Club, but it was the last nine holes where the Jacobs senior really shined.
“I don’t know, it’s just my back nine I guess,” said Kempf, who was even on the Creekside nine in the first round and followed that with a 2-under-par 33 on the same nine Wednesday. “I guess my game really likes that back nine.”
Kempf fired a 3-over 74 in the final round, including three birdies, to close the two-day, 36-hole McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournament with a 153 and capture the girls senior division title.
Kempf’s two-day total of 153 was two shots better than Crystal Lake Central junior Renata Petersen (78-77-155), who finished runner-up. Kempf’s high school teammate, Roslyn Leitner, was third with a 77-81-158.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” said Kempf, who trailed the Day 1 leader, Leitner, by two shots entering the second round with a 79. “It just shows me that my game is where it needs to be, and I’m ready for the high school season. I feel prepared.”
Going into the last hole of the tournament, Kempf did not know if her round had her close to the top score. Petersen made three birdies in the first four holes to start the final round and take the early lead.
“She was on fire, and I was like, ‘This is a going to be a really good day for her,’ ” Kempf said of Petersen’s fast start. “I try to focus on myself, but it definitely motivated me to sink some more putts and pushed me to do better.”
Petersen said her main focus this summer is improving her mental game.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Petersen said. “I’m performing better right now than I was last summer. Just focusing on my mental game is a big part of improving. At the end of the day, mental toughness is key for me.”
Temperatures in the 90s did not seem to affect play, as most golfers posted lower scores in the second round.
Kempf, Petersen and Leitner all played in the same group Wednesday and got some much-needed relief.
“Roslyn’s mom brought us some water and grapes,” Petersen said. “She was so nice at helping us out with the hot weather.”
Crystal Lake Central sophomore Bayden Hubacher had the lowest two-day total with a 76-74-150 for his second straight McHenry County Junior Amateur title in the boys junior division.
Hubacher had a three-shot lead after the first round but trailed Elgin Academy sophomore Jonathan Vogt by two going into the last hole, the par-4, 357-yard ninth on the Creekside nine.
Hubacher made par while Vogt ended his tournament with a triple bogey. Vogt still recorded the lowest round of the tournament, finishing a shot behind Hubacher with a 79-72-151. Crystal Lake’s Kevin Craig was third with a 83-77-160, making a tournament-best five birdies on Day 2.
An eagle on the second-to-last hole put Vogt ahead of Hubacher by two. On the final hole, Vogt pulled his second shot into the tall grass and had to take a drop. He chipped on and two-putted for a triple.
“It was bad, but it could have been worse. I still shot a 72,” said Vogt, who finished even on the Creekside nine. “I beat my personal best by four shots. It was a lot of fun, but it could have been better.”
Hubacher thought he had no chance to win after Vogt’s eagle.
“I thought I was kind of out of it,” said Hubacher, who has five MCJGA tournament victories this summer. “I guess I got a little lucky, but I feel bad. It was a lot of fun. We were tied or close until that last hole. That was unfortunate because he was playing awesome.”
Wauconda graduate Matt Szmajda recorded an 80-76-156 and held off Woodstock graduate Evan Bridges (83-77-160) for first in the boys senior division. Prairie Ridge senior Bailey Lazar was third with a 91-78-169.
Bridges, who placed runner-up in the same event a year ago, made a push with an eagle on the second-to-last hole of the tournament, but Szmajda responded with a challenging birdie putt to swing momentum back his way.
“I was thinking I was about to go on a run there and make a push,” said Bridges, who added two birdies in his second round. “I eagle a hole, and he makes a 45-foot putt for birdie right after.”
“If I see him make a good shot, I know I need to make a good shot, too,” said Szmajda, who will play at NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest. “My putter was working for me today. I only had one three-putt all day. The rest, if I didn’t make it, I was tapping in.”
Bridges, who will play golf at D-III Carroll University, will compete in his first McHenry County Amateur Tournament this weekend at Blackstone in Marengo. Players have to be 18 or older to play.
“I’m really looking forward to the great competition,” Bridges said. “I just checked the tee times, and I’m playing with one of my oldest buddies from Huntley [graduate Garrett Heinke].”