Prophetstown repeats as regional champ in Rock Falls
Return of the Prophets
ROCK FALLS – You could sense the zen within Molly Corbin as she silently uttered, "There are no branches" on No. 9 on Tuesday afternoon at Rock River Golf and Pool.
The Prophetstown senior carved an iron onto the green from about 50 yards out and drained the ensuing par putt, which melted left to right from 12 feet away.
Before talking about her Prophets' second straight Class A regional title – also the second in the program's history – she confessed she never even detected the oak's scraggly, ambling branches.
"I didn't even realize the branches were there, because you kind of zone out everything," Corbin said. "And then I saw it go right between two branches … that was a lucky shot."
Maybe it was mind over matter, a concept that has defined the Prophets' meteoric rise the past two seasons. That round-wrapping putt followed a four-putt triple-bogey on No. 8.
"Molly said it best earlier when she said they're mentally tougher this year than they were as juniors," Prophetstown coach Kelly Siltman said. "They just understand that one hole does not a whole round make."
Corbin shot a 7-over-par 42 on the back nine to total 89. She then beat Eastland freshman Karrisa Freidag in a one-hole playoff with a bogey on No. 1 to take the outright medalist honor. Freidag took solace in her Cougars advancing with the second-lowest total of 391, six more than the Prophets' 385.
Impressive, considering it's the first year Eastland has fielded a girls team. Karissa's sister, Kori, shot 97. Alex Moutrey (98), Izy Todd (107) and Samantha Feltenz (108) rounded out the scorecard. Geneseo was the third team through, with a 407.
Freidag crushed the ball off the tee and surprised herself on the greens.
"I hit my drives the best I've ever hit them," she said. "Usually my putting is bad, but today I just kind of concentrated a little more, and they just fell in. On the front nine, I struggled just a little bit. But on the back nine, I got used to it."
For Prophetstown, Rock Falls, Erie and Fulton, their "back nine" was the front. Rock Falls junior Kara Nehrkorn (104) who, along with classmate Jessica Stickel (111) made the sectional cut, struggled to adjust to greens 1-9, which were aerated about 2 weeks ago.
"I don't even think I have yet," Nehrkorn said. "It's really hard to adjust to such a drastic change."
The Rockets were last out of seven complete teams with 459. Fulton had just two golfers – Hailey Wiebenga (127) and Makenna Munson (128).
After shooting a 6-over-par 43 through nine, Prophetstown senior Annie Sandrock was taken aback by the spongey, molasses-slow No. 1 green. Her first putt stopped 8 feet shy of the cup. The second curled around two-thirds of the hole before dropping. Shortly thereafter, Corbin also left a less-then-lengthy putt well short before tapping in for a double.
Erie senior Skylar Neely-Houzenga was the only golfer in the No. 1 group to shoot better than a double on No. 1. She chipped on from left of the green and rolled in a 7-footer for par. Her up-and-down game was outstanding, especially considering how far it's come.
"That's a part of my game that really struggled early in the year," said Neely-Houzenga, whose steady 94 easily beat the cut.
Right behind her was Polo's lone golfer, Alina Llanas, with a 95.
Corbin went par-par-birdie on Nos. 4-6. On the par-5 sixth, she mashed a drive that strayed just left of the fairway before getting a hold of an iron shot from the thick stuff, leaving it on the fairway about 20 yards shy of the green. A textbook chip and run set up a 3-foot tap-in for birdie.
"That did so much for my confidence," Corbin said. "I knew then that I could pull through for the team."
In the group ahead of her, Sandrock was struggling out of the tee box. But she was prepared to scramble.
"It feels really good to know you don't have to use your driver to get that par," Sandrock said. "The whole thought process before was 'I want to hit big. I want to hit long.' All the girls were trying to outdrive one another. I finally started to realize it's not about driving really long. It's just about staying straight and focusing."
Stephanie Emery (102) and Ella Kramer (104) rounded out the Prophets' counted scores. Abbey Baker carded 111. Catherine Cooney (148) got the call to replace Corbin's best friend, Amanda Bertolozzi, who was out with an injury. So Cooney slipped a penny in her shoe and pinned back her ears.
"I have never played 18 holes in my life," Cooney said. "To play your first 18 in regionals, I was like, 'Yikes.' But I just kind of didn't think about the fact that it was 18, or that it was a regional. All the girls told me not to be nervous. It was cool."
Each of them hugged Corbin afterward. The last embrace was reserved for Bertolozzi, who couldn't help but cry while congratulating Corbin.
"She was just upset because of how great our team did and how much she wanted to be part of it," Corbin said. "She is a part of it, even if she's not actually golfing."
That's just how the Prophets roll. They'll try to keep it going at Monday's Genoa-Kingston Sectional.
1. Prophetstown 385; 2. Eastland 391; 3. Geneseo 407
1. Skylar Neely-Houzenga, Erie, 94; Alina Llanas, Polo, 95; Kara Nehrkorn, Rock Falls, 104; Jessica Stickel, 111