Riley Hansen and Eryn Murray are ending their prep golf careers this weekend where they had hoped to play their final prep rounds.
Both seniors are teeing it up Friday at the IHSA Class 1A state meet at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur. And while this is familiar territory for both, it will also be much different as their situations will be reversed.
For the first time in her four state appearances, Hansen will be competing as part of a team entrant. Kewanee was finally able to field a team – albeit the minimum of four golfers – and advanced to state with a third-place sectional team finish.
Murray is back at state for the third time in her career, but this will be the first time she is flying solo. The Maple Leafs, who won their own regional championship last week, finished four strokes behind Kewanee and in fifth place at Monday's Peru St. Bede Sectional and had their run of four straight state team trips end.
However, Murray shot an 83 to finish tied for eighth overall and earn a coveted state spot awarded to the top 10 golfers at sectionals not on a qualifying team.
“It's very bittersweet,” Murray said of being in Decatur without her teammates. “I feel bad; I wish I would have gone with my teammates, but it will still be a cool experience.”
With not playing in the team competition, Murray's third straight state trip will have her focusing on her game when the 36-hole tournament tees off.
“I don't want to set too many goals for myself because I don't want to disappoint,” she said. “Probably just to enjoy it no matter what happens because it's my last tournament.”
Hansen enters this weekend with mixed emotions as well. Not only will she be part of a team competition for the first time, she will be looking to make amends for a rough junior year at state. Last year, battling tough weather conditions, she carded her two worst state rounds in an 85-83—168 total to finish tied for 31st and not earn all-state honors for the first time in her career.
“I think I'm more ready for this year, but I'm sure I'll be just as nervous as I was the first time,” she said. “I just have more experience and if there's bad weather I'm used to that. I just hope the weather is better, which it looks like it will be.”
Hansen has proven to be one of the top talents in the state for four years. As a freshman she set the bar high when she tied for eighth individually, shooting 84-79—163. As a sophomore, she carded rounds of 77-75—152 to finish solo second, just three shots behind winner Ali Schrock of Pontiac.
“I just hope I play well,” said Hansen. “I feel like I've done everything I could to prepare. I just hope to be top 10 again.”
Admitting that she and her teammates were “in disbelief” over earning a state trip as they beat teams that beat them during regional play, Hansen's focus may be a bit split. But she is looking forward to the final weekend with her teammates – junior Natalie Yepsen and freshmen Mya Mirocha (who also shot a sectional 83 to tie for eighth place individually) and Aspen Schwickeroth.
“I think we probably just want to make the cut,” said Hansen of the team fortunes in the field of 12 that gets cut to the top eight teams for Saturday's final round. “And if we don't do that, we probably just want to play the best that we can.”
And just maybe, there can be another celebration when team scores are posted. Monday's long wait for sectional team scores and results was sure worth it.
“Everyone started crying,” said Hansen when they realized they had finished third and earned a state team trip. “We were all just really happy. We were completely shocked.”
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