BELLEVILLE — The Granite City Warriors girls' golf team didn’t walk out of the Orchards Golf Course on Tuesday with a Southwestern Conference tournament championship.
Still, the Warriors had reason to be upbeat. After placing fifth in the seven-team league tournament with a four-player score of 389, Granite City finished with its best conference season in program history.
The Warriors placed fifth overall in the conference standings with six points after finishing seventh a year ago. Granite City also finished fifth in the league standings in dual-match play at 2-4.
“This was our best conference season,” Granite City coach Karen Greenwald said. “Hopefully, we can be better next year.”
The Warriors had just five players in Tuesday’s league tournament. Sophomore Megan Keel and senior McKenna Beaver were tied for the team’s best score with a 94, senior Mallory O’Gara shot a 100, Ashley Richey fired a 101 and Phoenyx Derner finished with a 110.
“It’s pretty tough only having five girls because you’re depending upon the four lowest scores,” Beaver said. “It forces you to do good. In a way, it’s kind of a good thing.”
Edwardsville cruised to the tournament title, having six golfers shoot in the 80s and placing first with a 325. O’Fallon finished second with a 352, Belleville East placed third with a 369 and Collinsville was fourth with a 375.
Alton finished sixth with a 418. Annie Maynard was the Redbirds’ top performer with a 98. Morgan Bemis, the Redbirds’ No. 1 player, shot a 102. Katie Keller, the team’s only senior, finished with a 103.
“Today was rough for us,” Alton coach Carey Cappel said. “I thought the course played a little bit tough. The pin placements were hard, but they were hard for everybody. We weren’t swinging as well as we have been in the past two weeks. We were on a real high. We had a lot of motivation going into today to play very well. We’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks. Their putting and chipping kind of struggled a little bit and that’s what hurt us a little bit. But we’re going to put this one behind us and move on to practice tomorrow and hopefully work some of the kinks out and keep rolling into the postseason.”
Alton also finished sixth overall in the conference standings. The Redbirds beat Belleville West in a conference match on Monday for their only league win in dual-match play.
“The conference is tough,” Cappel said. “Edwardsville is always strong, O’Fallon is always up there, Belleville East is having a great year, Collinsville is having a great year and Granite City is having a great year as it just set a season record for wins this season. This year’s tough. It’s tough to beat one of these teams because they can shoot mid to low 70s any day of the week. Edwardsville has been posting 150s, so that’s why they’re the conference champs.”
The Redbirds, who lost four all-conference performers due to graduation, have just six wins this fall.
“It’s a brand new group,” Cappel said. “Half of them did not see any varsity time last year. I’m very happy. Only three girls of these seven have seen varsity time in the last couple of years. Being very new and being very fresh, they learned a lot and they worked really hard. We’ve got a lot to learn still and a lot to work for but I’m happy with how they played today. We’re just looking to move on for tomorrow and get better.”
The Warriors are enjoying their best season in program history. With a 10-4 record, Granite City set a school record for victories and will finish with its first ever winning season. They got off to a 7-0 start after beating Belleville West in their conference opener on Sept. 1 and broke the school mark for most wins after beating Alton last week.
“I think we have a chance to go far if we keep improving,” said O’Gara, whose team has a scramble against Columbia and Belleville West on Wednesday at Ann Briar Golf Course. “We still have a week left to get better and work on some more things. We have a busy week, so we’re excited.”
Tuesday’s conference tournament was played under cloudy and wet conditions.
“The weather was pretty bad, but we powered through it just like we always do,” Beaver said.
Beaver finished with three pars, including one in par-5 No. 18. She shot a 44 on the front nine.
“I had a pretty sweet drive,” Beaver said. “It was 250 yards. It was a long drive. I had a nice second shot with my 6-iron and then I chipped on and then, I two-putted.”
Keel shot a 47 in both the front and back nine, made five pars and shot a birdie in the par-4 No. 10 hole. O’Gara shot a 48 in the front nine and a 52 in the back and finished with three pars.
For the Redbirds, Maynard finished with three pars and Keller made her only par one par the par-4 No. 5 hole.
The Warriors and Redbirds will compete in the Gary Bair Tournament on Thursday at Oakbrook Golf Course in Edwardsville. They’ll also compete in the Class AA regional tournament on Oct. 7 at Tamarack Golf Course in Shiloh.