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Putnam County junior Monica Monroe putts for par Wednesday during the Class A St. Bede Regional at Spring Creek Golf Course. Monroe shot a career-best 102 to help the Lady Panthers place second and advance to sectional with a 416 team score. NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
Above: St. Bede’s Barbi Prokup chips Wednesday during the Class A St. Bede Regional. Prokup was the area’s top finisher as she shot a 94 to place fifth. Below: St. Bede’s Gabby Mendoza watches a drive. Mendoza qualified for the sectional as an individual. NewsTribune photos/Anthony Soufflé
Initially, Putnam Count girls golf coach Eric Ciucci said he was speechless.
With good reason.
Ciucci’s Lady Panthers had just placed second at the Class A St. Bede Regional at Spring Creek Golf Course and advanced to a sectional for the first time.
After a long pause, Ciucci found the words to describe the second-year program’s monumental accomplishment.
“I don’t think a whole lot of people at the start of the year expected us to be qualifying as a team for sectionals,” Ciucci said. “We figured we’d be fighting for that third spot. To come out in the second spot, I’m just thrilled. I’m really happy for the girls.”
The Lady Panthers defied expectations by having their top four golfers record personal-best scores.
Juniors Carly Gonet and Stephanie Wilson became the first PC girls golfers to break 100 with a 96 and 97, respectively, while junior Monica Monroe carded a 102 and junior Tara Doyle recorded a 121.
“The last week we’ve been talking a lot about how we had a chance to make a trip to sectionals and all the girls bought into it,” Ciucci said. “They’ve been really excited about today. I think we just saw what our good attitude and good effort can do for us. We certainly peaked on the right day, and everything fell into place and we played wonderful.”
Putnam County finished with 416 strokes to earn one of three team sectional berths. Bishop McNamara won the regional title with a 360, while Beecher placed third with a 442.
St. Bede placed fourth with a 460 to miss its fourth consecutive sectional berth.
“We’ve worked really hard for it so it’s kind of a big honor,” Gonet said. “This has been our big goal and we did it.”
Gonet, who earned medalist honors in PC’s regular season finale on Friday, started the regional with a 50 on the back nine. She closed with a 46 on the front nine.
“I’ve just been slowing down my swing a lot and taking my time,” Gonet said about the key to her recent success. “I’ve been staying more relaxed, and it’s been working out for me.”
Wilson shot a 48 on the back and finished with a 49 on the front, Monroe carded a 52 on the back and a 50 on the front and Doyle had a 64 on the back but improved seven strokes for a 57 on the front.
“Stephanie continues to make progress for us. Every week she’s getting better and better,” Ciucci said. “Monica had a phenomenal round. She hit some great golf shots. She was calm. She putted well. She played a nice round of golf. … Tara struggled on the first nine but came back and shot 57 on the second nine. She could have said, ‘Today’s not my day,’ but she stuck with it. She shot a lot better on her second nine and came up big when we needed her.”
The Lady Panthers will play Tuesday in the Champaign St. Thomas More Sectional. “There’s going to be a lot of competition, but we have to try our hardest and not give up,” Wilson said.
Three area individuals will join the Lady Panthers in Champaign as St. Bede’s Barbi Prokup and Gabby Mendoza and DePue’s Mercedes Ruiz also qualified.
Prokup fired a 94 to place fifth and earn her fourth sectional berth.
“I struggled really bad on the back nine. I got a lot of bad breaks and bad lies, but thankfully, I had a good front nine and that’s what got me through,” said Prokup, who carded a 43 on the front and a 51 on the back.
“I’m really excited (to go back to sectionals), and I’m excited the PC team is going with me this year. They did awesome. I enjoy playing with them. We got to know each other very well (this season).”
Mendoza shot a 108 to earn her third career sectional berth, while Ruiz grabbed the final individual spot with a 115.
Note: Morris senior Olivia Keif won the individual title with a 9-over-par 82.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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