Girls golf: Nekola leads St. Charles North to DuKane crown
If ever there was a way to test a conference champion, it came on the 18th hole Monday at Phillips Park in Aurora.
With a nasty pin placement that left one golfer after another shaking their head walking off the green, St. Charles North junior Catie Nekola knew it wasn't going to be easy.
Nekola knocked her first putt a couple feet past the hole, then made the comebacker for a 2-putt and a birdie. That completed her round of 75, two strokes ahead of St. Charles East's Sarah Podjasek as the North Stars won the DuKane crown with a 339 total.
Countless other golfers left their uphill first putt just short on 18, then watched the ball roll right back to them. It led to golfers not just 3-putting the 18th hole, but others taking as many as seven or eight putts.
St. Charles East, which finished second to the North Stars at 345, averaged 4.3 putts on 18.
"Coach (Stephen) Dodd's help on 18 helped me win," Nekola said. "It was crazy. I told myself there was no way I am leaving this short. I literally just whacked at it."
Technically, Nekola has to wait until Wednesday to find out if she's the individual conference champ. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only the top four DuKane teams competed Monday, with five through eight playing Wednesday to complete the tournament.
Because the conference team champion is based on both tournament scores and regular season dual matches, St. Charles North did wrap up the team title Monday. Nekola was followed by senior Isabella Spinazze (85), junior Aleksa Gizewicz (88) and senior Sophia Evers (91).
Dodd said a false front on the par 3 10th hole also caused problems.
"Our players did their best under adverse conditions," Dodd said. "I think the course and a couple pin placements got the better of all the teams today and it really took away from how close of a competition it was. It was disappointing to see just a couple holes take so many shots and so much time."
Dodd said coaches realized after watching the first two golfers putt on 18 that there would be problems. They spoke to the Phillips Park pro but once competition had started the pin placement couldn't be changed.
Nekola finished strong with birdies on 14, 16 and 18 to come from behind against runner-up Podjasek (77). On 18, Nekola hit a perfect drive, then a 5-iron from 160 yards into the wind to an uphill green to set up her two-putt birdie while Podjasek, playing in the group behind Nekola, bogeyed the hole.
It still was a career-best round for Podjasek.
"I just played solid golf all day," Podjasek said. "My putts were going in and everything was clicking together. I'm so proud of how I played today -- 77 is a great score for me."
Junior Abby Buechele (85), sophomore Emily Charles (88) and junior Allison Edgar (95) rounded out the Saints' top four.
Wheaton North finished third with a 351 behind senior Grace Quinn (85), freshman Bridget Craig (85), senior Abby O'Connell (90) and senior Daley Dixon (91).
Freshman Marisa Lerario led Lake Park with an 86. Madison Place (91), Leah Ellison (93), and Olivia Essary and Francesca Ranieri (95s) contributed to Lake Park's 365.
Batavia, Geneva, Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South will tee it up Wednesday.