CARBONDALE — Carterville senior Avery Rea needed three extra holes to top Pinckneyville's Megan Breslin, and in doing so, nailed down her fourth straight Mississippi Division title at the SIRR girls golf tournament hosted by Hickory Ridge Golf Center Tuesday.
“Before it all started I was just trying to be confident,” Rea said. “I kept thinking, 'You can do this, you can do this,' and later it was, 'You need to do this and I can do this.'"
Rea joined former Nashville all-stater Shawn Renegarbe (2010-2013) as a four-time Mississippi Division girls golf champion. Breslin tied with her twin sister Sarah for second last year and finished third behind Sarah as a freshman. Both Breslins made the all-conference team for the third time.
“While we waited for the playoff to begin, I was just talking to my grandpa and my dad and we were just telling stories and joking around,” Rea said. “I went to Coach Clark and he told me I didn’t need to do putting or chipping; I just needed to relax. So I did that."
Rea was behind by three strokes with two holes remaining of the regulation 18 holes when Breslin made a serious mistake on 17, which led to a triple bogey to allow Rea to pull into a tie after a par. Both golfers finished with a par on 18 to set up the playoff round.
“I hit the wrong club off the tee-box,” Breslin said. “I thought I grabbed my pitching wedge. I hit it and it went straight for the woods and I thought, 'Why did it go so far?' I checked my club and, oh, my gosh, it was my 8-iron. If that never happened I would have won.”
Rea and Breslin began the playoff on the par 4, 343-yard hole one, where Rea sank a five-foot putt and Breslin sank an eight-footer. On the par 5, 443-yard hole two, Rea hit a 12-foot chip from the front of the green, leaving an easy 6-inch tap in. Breslin had placed her second shot 30 feet above the pin, but her next shot left her with a 10-inch tap in to keep pace.
“That second hole, my hands were still shaking,” Rea said. “I then suddenly could hear everything, the girls talking, the cars going, I could hear birds flying, I don’t know what happened and I then chunked my second shot. I told Coach Clark and he said again it was just my nerves, so just calm down. I was so tired at that point, so when my chip shot had a chance to go in I was yelling at it even though everyone was laughing at me.”
The playoff moved to the par 4, 363-yard hole three. Rea hit her tee shot to 170-yard mark down the middle of the fairway, while Breslin was at the 158 mark just a foot into the left rough.
“I thought this was going to be her hole, but when she chunked her shot, I was pretty sure it was going to end right there because I was left with a 35-foot (shot) right in front of the green,” Rea said.
Rea hit her next shot to the front edge of the green, while Breslin hit her shot to the left on the edge of the bunker. Rea went for the gold, leaving her a two-inch putt, which she tapped in.
Breslin’s chip left her a 12-foot putt from the left of the pin. Her putt broke past the hole on the right.
“That green broke left to right and I left it on the right side,” Breslin said. “My dad always says you can’t leave it on the short side because it never gives it a chance to go in. I wasn’t too mad about losing, it was the fact I didn’t give my putt a chance to go in. That’s what made me mad.”
Rea and Breslin finished tied for the lead at six-over 78 after 18 holes. Playing in the same foursome, both Rea and Breslin made the turn tied at one-over, with Rea bagging two birdies to go with three bogies, while Breslin had three birdies to offset two single bogies and a double bogey.
“On the first hole my range finder stopped working and I thought, 'You have to be kidding me,' so I hit it over the green and ended up bogeying it,” Rea said. “Luckily my dad brought another one, so I didn’t have to worry about that the rest of the round.”
Breslin got off the great start on the back nine, taking a one-stroke lead with a par on 10 and a birdie on 11, but lost that stroke with a bogey on 12 and held with a par on 13. Rea got off to a rougher start, with a bogey on 10, but followed with three consecutive pars to remain one stroke behind with five holes left.
Rea then hit a snag with a triple bogey on 14 to fall behind by four strokes as Breslin maintained with a par on 14. Rea got within three strokes with a par on 15 as Breslin suffered a bogey. She remained three back after both golfers suffered a bogey on 16 to set up the fateful hole 17.
On the Ohio Division side, Massac County junior Millie Lawson (80) won her first conference title, edging out Murphysboro junior Hannah Gahagan by a stroke.
“It was just another day on the course for me,” Lawson said. “I struggled on a few holes because I’m not as long as some players, but for the most part this course fits me. I struggled to get on the greens, so I didn’t have any birdies, but my putting saved me. I only had 31.”
Massac County won its fourth straight title by 97 strokes over Herrin. The Patriots have taken 14 of the last 16 and 19 of the past 23 Ohio Division titles.
“We could have played better today, but I’ll take it,” said Massac County coach Laurie Glass.
The Lady Patriots placed all six members of their team on the 10-person All-Conference Team, including Lawson for the third time, with junior Mady Blair, senior Emma Korte and senior Lauren Coakley for the second straight time. Sophomore Madie Coakley and junior Madison Cunningham made all-conference for the first time.
Murphysboro fielded only three golfers, so didn’t qualify for the team title, but all three earned All-Conference honors: Gahagan for the third time, junior Kaci Rendleman for the second and senior Drew Stokes for the first time
West Frankfort also had just three team members, with senior Rorrie House earning her third all-conference honors.
Nashville won its second consecutive and seventh of the last eight Mississippi Division titles by 12 strokes over Pinckneyville. Seniors Hope Rueter, Rachael Kell and Jordan Stiegman earned their third all-conference honors, with Brooke Bartling getting her second.
“We’re real happy,” said Nashville coach Doug Kell. “If you can come out and not play your best and still come away with a championship you say we got away with one and we’re going to get better moving on. The conference is something you want to win and put the plaque on the wall.”
Pinckneyville junior Graci McDaniel placed on the all-conference team for the first time as did Carterville sophomore Ali Lamb and Anna-Jonesboro senior Molly Ellis.