On a chilly and soggy day at Lake Forest Golf Club, the Saline varsity girls golf team defended their regional championship.
Led by individual regional champ Catherine Loftus, who won the individual medalist honors in a playoff, Saline shot 324 – 15 better than second place Northville. Plymouth was third with a score of 346.
Despite the weather – the Hornets were still 27 strokes better than they were when they won the regional last year.
“This was Hornet weather. I thought the girls handled it great. At this time of year you have to be ready for whatever Mother Nature will throw at you, whether it’s heat and humidity or sleet,” Saline coach Debbie Williams-Hoak said. “We started a little slow today. But after a rough couple of holes, we picked it up and improved.”
Catherine Loftus shot a 76 to lead the Hornets. Molly Pribble, who joined Loftus on the all-region team, shot 80. Sydney Page came in at 81 and Stephanie Schick scored 87. Emily Woodman came in at 116.
Loftus and Plymouth’s Shae Zydeck were tied for the tournament lead so they went out and competed in a playoff. With a light mist blowing through the course and a smattering of teammates, coaches and parents forming a gallery for the most-watched hole of golf of the season, Loftus and Zydeck took to the tee.
It was Loftus’s second playoff. As an eighth grader, she lost in a sudden-death playoff.
“I was excited. I wanted to experience it again and I was really confident about it,” Loftus said, admitting to nervousness. “My heart was beating really fast the whole time.”
Loftus teed off first, driving it straight down the middle of the fairway. Zydeck followed with almost the exact same drive. On the second shot, Loftus gained about 15 yards on Zydeck.
“We both had great drives. Pretty good second shots for most of us. I hit it a little bit further,” Loftus said.
On the third shot, Loftus hit a beauty that stopped about 15 feet short of the pin. Zydeck made the green, but was left with a 25 to 30-foot putt.
Zydek’s putt for birdie was well short. Loftus then stepped up and came within inches of winning it with a birdie. She tapped in for par, putting the pressure on Zydek to make a 10-foot putt.
It was tense moment. Loftus explained how she dealt with the moment.
“You’ve got to stay in it and act as if you’re going to play another hole,” Loftus said.
Zydek’s putt was just off the mark and Loftus won. Showing sportsmanship, she refrained from any celebration until after she shook Zydek’s hand. After placing the pin back in the hole, she gave the camera a thumbs up. Moments later, she was mobbed by teammates.
“It was really rewarding to feel it at the end and know that I won it—in a playoff, too,” she said.
It was the second consecutive individual regional for Loftus.
Coach Williams-Hoaks said Loftus is a great around golfer.
“But what sets her apart is how much she’s improved, mentally, and how competitive she is,” Williams-Hoak said.
Pribble also rebounded from a slow start to finish with a top five score of 80, qualifying her for the all-state team.
“She had some ups and downs early in the year, but I’m really proud of the way she’s golfed over the last five or six weeks. She’s golfing very well,” coach Williams-Hoak said.
The Hornets now turn their focus to the state championship tournament, Oct. 20-21 at Grand Valley State University’s The Meadows.
Coach Williams-Hoak knows the end is near for her special group of seniors.
“When I think it about, I get a little emotional. But we’ll save the tears for the year end banquet. This is a special group of girls and they’ve got a few more things they want to do, yet,” she said.