MARENGO – Johnsburg senior Ellie Johnson knew she could pick things up on the back nine Wednesday at Blackstone Golf Club.
Johnson was not playing poorly, but to win her third individual Kishwaukee River Conference Tournament title and help the Skyhawks win their first, she wanted to do more.
A conversation with Johnsburg coach Chris O’Niel, likely more about her mental approach than anything physical, seemed to ease her mind.
“I was getting a little tense,” Johnson said. “It is kind of a big match, conference and stuff, and we were going for our first conference title. (O’Niel) just helped to really relax me. He told me to play my game, and just being relaxed really helps a person play such better golf.”
The pep talk, along with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 12, pushed Johnson to a 12-over-par 84 and her third straight individual title, and also helped the Skyhawks win their first KRC team championship. It was the first conference title in any league that O’Niel knew of.
Johnson followed her 45 on the front with 39 on the back nine.
“She started slow, she was flustered a little bit,” O’Niel said. “But she knows the course, she’s played well here before and she was able to regroup. That’s what you’d expect from your captain and state-caliber player. It was great to see other girls do that too.”
The Skyhawks finished at 393, five shots ahead of defending champion Harvard. Richmond-Burton shot 452 and Marengo had a 493.
The Skyhawks were almost assured of winning the overall KRC championship – the dual meets counted with the tournament finish – and held off the Hornets with Savannah Prouty (102), Gracie Berthoud (103) and Riley Klotz and Taylor Blake (both 104s) all finishing in the top 10.
Joelle McMillan led Harvard with an 89, Emma Ackland added a 97, Julia Chupich had a 100 and Reagan Witt shot 112. McMillan, Ackland and Chupich all were in the top five.
Richmond-Burton’s Alaina Robinson shot 99 for fourth.
“It would have been a little bittersweet to take home the trophy and not win the tournament,” O’Niel said. “It’s always fun to play Harvard. It’s probably not one of the most well-known little rivalries in the county, but Harvard has a really nice team. They took home the trophy and had almost everyone back. When we play them, it’s going to come down to a putt here or a chip there.”
The players all needed some time to adjust to 15-18 mph winds that made it tough, although they only briefly had to play through light rain.
“It was a really tough day, the wind was howling out there,” McMillan said. “But it was a beautiful day for golf and it was very fun. There’s a learning curve (with the wind) and it took a few mis-hits to realize, ‘How strong is this and how should I adjust?’ Overall, I figured it out and was able to play through and keep my score down.”
The teams will see each other again next Wednesday at Boone Creek Golf Course in Bull Valley for the Johnsburg Class 1A Regional.
“It’s our senior year so this is pretty cool,” Berthoud said. “We won our first regional last year and to win conference this year is pretty awesome. Our team has been pretty good. Ellie’s been very consistent. The other girls have been working up towards her. I’m super-stoked for our regional match coming up.”
Kishwaukee River Conference Tournament
Team scores: 1. Johnsburg 393, 2. Harvard 398, 3. Richmond-Burton 452, 4. Marengo 493.
Top 10 individuals: 1. Ellie Johnson (J) 84, 2. Joelle McMillan (H) 89, 3. Emma Ackland (H) 97, 4. Alaina Robinson (RB) 99, 5. Julia Chupich (H) 100, 6. Savannah Prouty (J) 102, 7. Gracie Berthoud (J) 103, 8 (tie). Riley Klotz (J) Taylor Blake (J) 104, 10. Makenna Donohoe (RB) 109.
Johnsburg: Ellie Johnson 84, Savannah Prouty 102, Gracie Berthoud 103, Riley Klotz 104, Taylor Blake 104.
Harvard: Joelle McMillan 89, Emma Ackland 97, Julia Chupich 100, Reagan Witt 112.
Richmond-Burton: Alaina Robinson 99, Makenna Donohoe 109, Sierra Simecek 115, Lyndsay Regnier 129.
Marengo: Mary Grace Reed 118, Kiley Christopher 120, Emma Leucht 123, Addie Johnson 132.