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Alton's Natalie Long watches her tee shot off of No. 17 at Belk Park Golf Course during the Southwestern Conference Tournament on Tuesday. Long shot a 1-under par 73 to earn medalist.
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Tori Hays of the Redbirds putts on No. 16 at Belk Park on Tuesday.
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Courtney Hachmann of AHS gives a fist pump after sinking a putt on Hole No. 17 at Belk Park on Tuesday at the SWC Tourney.
WOOD RIVER — It was the type of score that is seen at state tournaments and the type of score that makes coaches smile from ear to ear.
The Alton Redbirds fired a 305 on Tuesday at Belk Park Golf Course to cruise to victory at the Southwestern Conference Tournament. The win secured a share of the SWC crown with Edwardsville after the Tigers beat the Redbirds in head-to-head league action. It was the best-ever 18-hole score for Alton.
The remainder of the SWC field on Tuesday rounded out with: Edwardsville (337), O'Fallon (345), Belleville West (362), Collinsville (368), Belleville East (372) and Granite City (389).
"A 305, I don't think anybody was expecting that when we came out today," AHS head coach Carey Cappel said. "We talked yesterday about just taking one shot at a time and one hole at a time. We were going over course management and the girls feel comfortable out here. Last year at the Madison County they shot well. I think this is a course where they're confident and we're used to the quick greens. The course is in amazing shape."
Alton senior Natalie Long earned medalist honors. Sticking to the theme of her team, Long carded her career-best with a 1-over par 73. Teammate Tori Hays was second with a 2-over 74 and Courtney Hachmann shot a 3-over 75 for the Redbirds.
"It's really exciting," Long said. "We had a 305, which is a great score for us. It was an overall best for our team, so that's awesome."
Cappel added of her low-scoring trio, "Early in the year we talked about really getting consistent and they're really pushing each other to get better. These are scores we see at the state level and winning lots of tournaments. They deserve every second of this. My top three have been with me every since they were freshmen. The growth they've made is all on them."
As for Long, Cappel said it's been a lot of hard work to get her to this point.
"It's unbelievable," Cappel said. "Her freshman year I remember her coming out and shooting 120s. Man, coming out and here at the conference tournament and shooting 1-over par just shows how hard of a worker she is. I can't drag her off the golf course. She's an amazing kid and she deserves it."
Ashley Orr rounded out the scoring for Alton, shooting an 83. All four of the Redbird scorers placed in the top 10 individually in the tournament.
"That was (Orr's) low round of the year," Cappel said. "She was on fire all day today. She shot a 97 at The Orchards a couple of weeks ago and we were pumped about that and this is a pretty long golf course for her. She hasn't hit the ball super long, but she's really been working on her short game and her irons and getting consistent there and it paid off today."
Other Redbirds to compete Tuesday and not figure in the team score were: Morgan Bemis (103), Samantha Patton (110), Katie Keller (112) and Annie Maynard (112).
Now Alton prepares for the Gary Bair Invite at Oak Brook Golf Club in Edwardsville on Thursday and then heads to Lincoln Greens Golf Course in Springfield for the Class AA Springfield Regional on Wednesday, Oct. 8.
Cappel said the Birds will just take it one day at a time. That's been the motto all year.
"Like we've said all year, we're going to take it one match at a time," Cappel said. "Right now that is Thursday, the Gary Bair in Edwardsville, so we're looking to get a little better and continue to keep the confidence high. That's the most important part of it and we're going to go into the postseason wanting to have a good time, staying loose. That's when these girls play the best. If these girls come out and shoot like this, they're going to do just fine."