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As she played her round in Sunday’s Illinois Valley Women’s Golf Invitational at Edgewood Park Golf Club, Balconi made sure to talk to her mother Pat, a longtime player in the tournament who died unexpectedly in April.
“I talked to her the entire round,” Balconi said. “I was talking to her constantly — constantly — but I talk to her every day.”
On Sunday, Balconi made her mother proud.
Playing with a full mind and a heavy heart, Balconi shot a 1-over-par 76 to win her third career IV Women’s Golf Invitational, which was played in Pat’s memory.
“I just wanted to play well for her and make her proud,” said Balconi, who made one last return to the event to honor her mother. “I wasn’t really even thinking about golf, which probably helped me. Sometimes I can get too mechanical, but today I didn’t even care about that. I just wanted to play for her.”
Instead of focusing on every little detail, she played for her mother’s memory and everything else on the course took care of itself.
“I’m just so happy for her,” said two-time champion Penny Derick, Balconi’s best friend who finished second with a 4-over 79. “Pat was such a special person, and this just meant so much to Carol and the family. I was rooting for Carol the whole round, which is hard to do because you want to play your own game.”
With a two-shot cushion at the turn over Derick and Gwen Holmes, Balconi’s lead quickly disappeared.
On Hole No. 10, Balconi pulled her tee shot into the trees and brush along the left side. She bogeyed the hole while Holmes birdied to pull into a share of the lead. Three holes later, another bogey by Balconi gave Holmes a one-shot advantage. However, Holmes struggled down the stretch and Balconi took advantage.
A Holmes bogey on Hole No. 15 and a Balconi birdie allowed Balconi to go from one shot back to one shot up.
Balconi maintained her steady play the rest of the way as a birdie on Hole No. 18 capped her matching nine-hole scores of 38 for the 1-over 76.
“On the back nine, the two par 5s were the holes I bogeyed and I thought, ‘Oh, here we go,’” Balconi said. “But everything just came around on the last 4-5 holes.”
While Derick watched her best friend win the title, she also stayed steady throughout her round as she shot a 40 on the front nine and a 39 on the back for a 4-over 79.
“I just played my game today and I didn’t know what anybody else was shooting,” she said. “I just figured if I stuck in there things would work out. I was really happy with the way I shot today.”
After Holmes double-bogeyed Hole No. 9, she rebounded well on the back nine as her birdie on Hole No. 10 gave her the lead, which she either held alone or shared until Hole No. 15.
However, a bogey on Hole No. 15 started a rough final four holes as she ended her round bogey, bogey, double bogey and bogey to finish the final four holes at 5-over.
She finished her round with a 6-over 81.
“I came back on (the back nine) and felt like I was doing pretty well, but my last four holes were just totally frustrating,” Holmes said. “I was really aware of where I was standing with the rest of the group, and I think I might have gotten a little nervous and kind of let it go, unfortunately.”
Putnam County senior to-be Stephanie Wilson finished fourth with an 11-over-par 86.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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