MOUNT MORRIS – Kishwaukee's drive for five is facing a significant speed bump at the Women's Lincoln Highway golf tournament.
The DeKalb country club has won the last four LHTs, including a year ago in dominating fashion at Rock River Golf and Pool in Rock Falls. This year, however, Kishwaukee holds just a five-point (+32 to +27) advantage against the host team, Sunset, following the first round of play on Friday.
The final round in the best-against-bogey tournament is slated for Saturday.
Salley Wessels was the top performer for Sunset with a +10 total, with Marilyn Geiken, Cheryl Satterfield, and Colleen Miller each at +5. Terri Scheidecker is at +2, while Kathi Tremble is at even. The two lowest scores from each eight-member team are discarded.
"Having five of our eight girls be in the pluses, that's a great feeling," Scheidecker said. "It gives us confidence, and I think we've got every possibility to go out and take Kish tomorrow."
Leading the way for Kishwaukee is Ruth Heal, who is competing in her 46th Lincoln Highway event. She's at +11, tied for second-best in a 56-player field.
"My first nine holes weren't too great today," Heal said, "but you make adjustments and you move on. That's all you can do."
Rounding out the Kishwaukee lineup is Bobbie Cesarek at +8, Donna Martin at +5, Debbie Brue and Kathy Halloran at +3, and Joan Burger at +2.
Heal is wary of Sunset putting together a charge on its home course.
"The last time we were here [in 2005], they beat us," Heal said. "Here's the thing with the girls at Kish – nobody wants to be on the team that loses. Nobody keeps winning all the time, but it's funny to hear the new ladies that come on and go, 'I don't want to be on the team that loses,' so they try really hard."
Timber Creek is in third place as a team at +17, thanks in large part to the efforts of first-year team member Alina Llanas. The Polo High School graduate is at +12, one ahead of Heal and Indian Oaks' Jacki Johnson.
"My front nine was definitely a struggle," Llanas said, "but the back nine, I decided to kick my butt in gear."
Llanas, who plays golf at McKendree College, where she will be a sophomore this fall, had the only score in the 70s, with a 7-over-par 79. That included an even-par 36 her last nine holes.
"I was so nervous the first couple of holes, and I got off to a very bad start," Llanas said. "The back nine, I hit my irons so much better, adjusted to the speed of the greens, and kept the ball in play. Everything was just better."
Top individual honors are up for grabs this year, with eight-time defending champion Ember Schuldt pursuing other golf interests after graduating from the University of Illinois this spring.
"I'd heard a lot about this tournament, and it's so much fun playing in it," Llanas said. "To win, it would just be unbelievable."
Top 3 teams
1. Kishwaukee +32
2. Sunset +27
3. Timber Creek +17