COLUMBIA - Kate Gallagher, 17, of Savannah, Missouri, took home top honors in the Missouri Women's Golf Association Junior Championship Friday. Gallagher had back-to-back rounds of 71, the lowest rounds in the tournament. She finished five strokes ahead of the field.
“After my solid first round, I just wanted to have a consistent second round,” Gallagher said. “I knew it would take another good round to win this.”
Gallagher, a rising senior at Savannah High School, is undecided on her future golf plans. She hopes to play in as many tournaments as possible and to have a solid senior season to get her name out there. She credits her family for her golf success.
“My family has played forever. Instead of paying for a babysitter, they’d take me and my brother with them whenever they went out and played.”
Starting at the age of two, Gallagher’s golf career sprouted from liking to ride in the cart. Slowly, she began chipping and putting, eventually teeing off from the 100-yard marker. The rest is history.
For the final round on Friday, the field of 42 golfers was split into three flights based on their first round performance. Flights A and B contained golfers between 16 and 18 years of age and Flight C had all golfers 15 and under.
Columbians Meghan Mueller and Naomi Starr competed in Flight A and finished eighth and 11th with scores of 163 and 170, respectively. Mary Schepker finished 10th in Flight C with a 217.
Another notable in the tournament at A.L. Gustin Golf Course was Claire Hodges, 10, of Wildwood, Missouri. Ten-years-old, she was the youngest competitor in the field but finished third in Flight C with a 169. Hodges is a member of the prestigious Tiger Woods Foundation Junior National Team.
“There’s only about 30 kids in the nation on that team,” said Karen Johnson, Publicity Director for the MWGA. “She’s won more tournaments than I’ve been to. She can hit the ball like a lumberjack. She’s just a phenom.”
In addition to excellence on the golf course, potential team members must complete community service in addition to displaying exemplary grades.
“This team wants excellent people as well as excellent golfers,” said Johnson.
The top five finishers in Flight A will play on the Missouri Four State Team. This team competes in regional tournaments every year against teams from Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the tournament returns to its original location of Mission Hills Country Club in Kansas. Joining Gallagher on the team are Celeste Gassman of Kansas City, Rachel Thompson of Chesterfield, Morgan Lamberson of Marshall and Junior Championship runner-up Hanule “Sky” Seo of Chesterfield.
“By including a spot on the Missouri Four State Team, we give these girls a real reason to play well in these tournaments,” said Johnson.
Seo, a 2009 graduate of Mary Institute-Country Day School in suburban St. Louis, is excited to represent Missouri on the team.
“I had some knee pain and headaches during the round today, but still had some good shots. I’m just thankful for all the people who kept encouraging me today and for the opportunity to play on the four team again,” said Seo.
Seo, who will be heading to Penn State in the fall to play golf, had a particularly impressive putt on number 17 to close the day. On one of the curviest, toughest greens of the course, Seo nailed a 30 footer to end on a positive note.
“That was one of the hardest and longest putts I’ve made in my entire life. I thought I hit it too soft, but it ended up going in,” said Seo. “I don’t know how I did it. If they gave me 1000 more balls I don’t think I could do it again. It was like a pill for my headache."
Seo credited Penn State’s architectural engineering program as well as the coaching staff’s friendliness as major pull factors for her. A PGA series event hosted at the Penn State home course sealed the deal for Seo.
“I’m really excited. I loved the coaches and the teammates. It just seems like fate really.”
For more information on MWGA events, please visit its website at www.mowomensga.org