STERLING – Two crucial shots, both on the 17th hole at Emerald Hill, went a long way toward determining who would earn medalist honors at the Women’s Rock River Classic golf tournament on Sunday afternoon.
One of the shots, by Emerald Hill’s Megan Baker, was executed flawlessly. The other, by PrairieView’s Elizabeth Curtiss, was not. It resulted in a two-shot swing, and helped Baker defend the title she also won in 2013.
Baker finished with a two-round score of 157, two strokes fewer than Curtiss.
“It feels pretty good, but it was tough,” Baker said. “It was a fight till the end.”
Curtiss, a University of Illinois-Chicago senior who won a state championship at Byron High School in 2010, was the midway leader after carding a 4-over-par 76 in Saturday’s first round. She was two clear of Baker, and maintained that advantage as each golfer fired 5-over-par 41s on the front nine.
Curtiss went up three shots with a par on the 10th hole, but Baker got two strokes back with pars on the 13th and 14th holes.
The margin remained at one heading into the 17th, a 352-yard par 5. Baker’s drive, in the right rough, left her with 150 yards to the pin, while Curtiss hit the fairway and had just 116 yards left.
Baker’s 6-iron approach hit the left side of the green and left her about 30 feet away for eagle. She ended up two-putting for a birdie.
“It was a pretty sweet shot,” Baker said.
Curtiss, meanwhile, went long and left with a pitching wedge, leaving her with a delicate chip to a green that ran away from her. She ended up with a bogey, leaving her one stroke back going into the last hole.
“It wasn’t even like I clubbed down,” Curtis said of her second shot to 17. “I hit the ball great, it went to the left of the green, and it just wouldn’t stop. That was the story of both days. I’d hit a good shot, but it wouldn’t stop on the greens.”
On the 18th, Baker sewed up the tourney by hitting the green of the 381-yard, par 5 in two shots. She three-putted the final green, but so did Curtiss, who ended with a bogey to finish two strokes behind.
Curtiss could take consolation in that her team, PrairieView, ended up taking the team title. The Byron club finished with a best-against-bogey score of -46, one fewer than Prophet Hills, and two fewer than Emerald Hill.
PrairieView had been in the team hunt the past 2 years, but was unable to seal the deal.
“All I can say is finally,” Curtiss said. “I don’t care if we won by half a stroke. It’s nice to be able to bring that trophy back to the home course, and kind of show it off a little bit in the trophy case.”
Curtiss had a best-against-bogey score of +18. Fourth Flight winner Deb Clark finished -2, while Dawn Smith and Shelly Barkei were each -7. Rounding out the PrairieView lineup were Char Morris and Laura Medlar, each at -24.
Curtiss mentioned afterward this will likely be her last Rock River Classic. After graduating next spring, she hopes to become a teaching professional, and possibly make a run at a pro career down the road, if her game gets to that point.
“Honestly, this is my favorite tournament of the year,” Curtiss said. “Everyone is so nice, and I think that’s what the Rock River tournament is all about. It’s about making friends and memories and experiences.”
Leading the way for Prophet Hills was Cathy Verhulst, who finished at +2. Shelley Felske (-6) and Karen Wiersema (-9) won the Third and Fifth flights, respectively.
Baker led all golfers with a +20 best-against-bogey total. Hazel Pulford (-13) won the Sixth Flight for Emerald Hill.
“The gals played pretty great,” Baker said, when asked about finishing third as a team. “It’s always a close rivalry with some of the teams here.”
The other Flight winner was Shady Oaks’ Laurie Becker (+3), in a playoff against Oakville’s Donna Landis to take the Second Flight.
Top 3 teams
1. PrairieView -46
2. Prophet Hills -47
3. Emerald Hill -48
Medalist: Megan Baker (EH) 157