OTTUMWA — With less then three weeks to go before regionals, Ottumwa girls golf coach Steph Carroll knew her team had to improve.
On the same course where they would determine their postseason fate, the Bulldogs posted a team score of 390 at Ottumwa’s Corky Nydle Invitational. That score was only good enough for third place, 13 shots behind West Des Moines Valley.
“It’s all about each golfer making up a couple of shots over the next couple of weeks that will make the difference in the regional,” Carroll said at the time.
What a difference 19 days can make.
Back on their home Ottumwa Country Club course for the first tournament action since the Nydle Invite, the Bulldogs rocketed past Valley and the rest of the 12-team field at the Class 4A, Region 2 Meet on Monday. After two straight years of coming up a few shots short, Ottumwa easily qualified for the Class 4A State Girls Golf Meet with a season-best 361 to win the regional title by a whopping 31 shots.
“We got 29 shots better,” Carroll said after the Bulldogs beat out fellow state-qualifer Valley for the regional title. “I can’t speak highly enough of these girls and the work they put in. This is what you build for all season.
“The Invite was definitely a wake-up call. The girls have done what they needed to and this is the result.”
Darby Patritto, who went to state as Ottumwa’s lone representative last year, will now have company and confidence in her return to the Class 4A meet next week. The Bulldog junior led Ottumwa as the regional runner-up, beating Nydle Invite medalist Dani Duerschmidt of Valley on a card-off after both players posted rounds of 86.
“I’m just glad we all came out and played well. I think that’s what our score shows,” Patritto said. “It’s exciting to see us play that well on this course.”
The scores told the story of how tough a state qualifying course the Ottumwa Country Club was on Monday. Regional medalist Megan Furish, one of just two Cedar Rapids Jefferson golfers in the field, won the honor by six shots with an eight-over-par 80 despite shooting four-over on her first three holes.
“When I got to the turn at plus-five, I figured I could either let this blow up into a really high number or just focus and put up the best score I could,” Furish said. “I tried to stay positive and told myself the round wasn’t over.
“I still figured 80 wasn’t going to be good enough. I thought there would be other girls coming in with better scores. I’m surprised it held up.”
Another Cedar Rapids golfer that will be her team’s lone state representative is Washington’s M.J. Kamin. The Warrior linkster fired an 87 to finish in fourth place, two shots ahead of sixth-place Coltyn Hunter of Indianola.
“It was a tough run at the end, but I’m pretty confident in my score,” Kamin said. “My goals were to make first-team all-conference and to make it to state. I’ve gotten both and I have a lot of confidence in what I can do at state.”
The tough finishing hole on the country club course made Whitney Dostal work to stay in the top five. Dostal found the lip of the greenside bunker with her second shot, then needed three shots just to get on the green before settling for a closing triple-bogey.
Dostal still came home in fifth place with a round of 88 thanks in large part to saving several shots on the other 17 holes of the course.
“That 18th was a disaster, but what saved me were several par saves I made throughout the round,” Dostal said.
Carroll talked about the season-long effort to save shots around the green by her team, which proved to be very helpful on Monday.
“You can go back to last year or the year before when we finished in third at the regional meet here and didn’t make it to state,” Carroll said. “It’s been highly motivating for the girls. Each shot we can gain is very important.”
Of all the saving shots on Monday, none were quite as exciting or unexpected as the way Abbie Budan improved her score and Ottumwa’s score on the par-3 16th. The sophomore hit her first-ever hole-in-one in an incredible moment that sent off a loud celebration reverberating throughout the course.
“I couldn’t believe that happened. I knew I hit a good shot, but I looked away and looked back just in time to see it just roll in,” Budan said after scoring a seventh-place finish with a career-best round of 90. “I’ve never had a day like this.”
“That’s a good way to pick up some shots,” Carroll added. “I’ll take an ace or two at Otter Creek next week.”
The Ottumwa girls will be the only area team competing at state next weekend. Only one other area individual qualified for state on Monday, as North Mahaska’s Kate Ray finished in a three-way tie for fourth at the 1A, Region 4 meet in Wapello with a round of 93.
Ray will compete next Tuesday and Wednesday in the Class 1A State Girls Golf Meet at the River Valley Golf Course in Adel. As a team, the Warhawks finished fifth in their regional meet with a team score of 453.
Other area teams that competed in regional competition on Monday included Centerville, who finished fourth in the Class 3A, Region 3 meet in Williamsburg after shooting a round of 417. SCC rival Davis County finished sixth at the Class 2A, Region 4 Meet in West Liberty with a round of 493.