Photo by Diane Cox
(From left) Natalie Long, Courtney Hachmann and Tori Hays
The last couple of seasons have been a whirlwind for the Alton girls’ golf program.
After only winning one match in 2011, the Redbirds improved so much that they only lost two total in 2013 and 2014. The success was capped with a Class AA sectional title and a 10th-place finish at the IHSA state tournament in Decatur this season.
At the forefront of all that success was Alton’s golfing trifecta of seniors Courtney Hachmann, Tori Hays and Natalie Long. The talented trio traded times at the top of the lineup to help them share the honor of AdVantage News Girls’ Golf Co-Players of the Year. Hays earned that distinction individually in 2013, but this season it was easily a three-horse race.
Hays was medalist at regionals for the Birds, but Long medaled at the Southwestern Conference Tournament and led her team at state, while Hachmann turned in the best score for AHS at sectionals.
“I think that just gave us confidence, too, because with Courtney and Natalie — especially Courtney started shooting great at the end — going into sectionals we thought we’d have a shot at the third spot,” Hays said. “Top three is all you need and we had worries, but it gave us a lot of confidence.”
That confidence led to the first sectional title in program history and the second state berth ever for girls’ golf at Alton.
Everything is just starting to sink in for the girls that they turned in the best season in school history and they feel pretty accomplished.
“My sister played for four years on the team and to watch her play and see how it grew little by little and then me come in and us three have the program to where it is now, it’s such a difference,” Hachmann said. “They didn’t win hardly any matches and for us to come in and win one match our freshman year and then have a winning season for girls’ golf our sophomore year and make a splash our junior and senior year, honestly I think we’ve made an impression on people. They will probably want to come out and be on the team.”
Long added, “I think it started sinking in after the season was over. The last couple of weeks it’s really sunk in of the impact we’ve made. Just talking to people in the hallways — because there are a lot of sports that did well at Alton this season — and just the impact that we’ve made is growing this program, and it’s incredible and it’s a great feeling.”
Maybe the most incredible accomplishment of the Birds this season was their performance at the SWC Tournament at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River on Sept. 30. After losing to Edwardsville in dual competition, Alton needed a win at the conference tourney to earn a piece of the SWC pie. AHS won the SWC outright in 2013.
The Redbirds fired a 305 as a team, beating second-place EHS (337) by 32 strokes. Long led the charge as medalist with a 1-over par 73, but her two teammates weren’t far behind. Hays shot a 2-over 74 and Hachmann fired a 3-over 75. The fourth score came from Ashley Orr, who carded an 83.
It was a surreal feeling for Alton, especially for Long, who worked hard to get to where she is now. She recently inked a letter of intent to golf at Lindenwood University. Hays is still looking to golf in college, too, while Hachmann is going into nursing for pediatric oncology in college and passing on a golf career.
“We all shot great scores individually and as a team to shoot 305, that competes with some of the best teams, so confidence-wise that was just a great feeling to take us into postseason,” Long said.
Hachmann added, “Even our fourth player had her lowest score there. Ashley had an 83, so that boosted her confidence a lot. Going into postseason we knew what we could do.”
Overall it was a great year to be a Redbird girls’ golfer and it won’t soon be forgotten.
“It was a good season,” Hays said. “We had a really good season last season so we wanted to top that and we did.”
Hachmann added, “Going out with a huge bang for the Redbirds ... I mean ... it’s going to leave an impression on my life.”