LOWER BURRELL – Lauren Waller didn’t see the sense in using a lot of her energy putting the golf ball Monday in the WPIAL Girls Individual Championships, so she one-putted seven holes at Hillcrest Country Club.
The result was a Class AAA title for the junior from Canon-McMillan High School.
Waller’s seven one-putts helped produce four birdies and three pars for a 2-over-par 75 along the hilly and tree-lined, 5,441-yard course.
Waller was five strokes better than Mia Kness of Peters Township, whose 80 secured second place.
In Class AA, Central Valley’s Mackey Fouse, Maddie Suder and Marissa McDaniel took the top three spots, but Jefferson-Morgan’s Gillian Alexander finished fifth with an 82. Fort Cherry’s Jenna Lucas missed qualifying by one shot after shooting an 86, but she did earn alternate status.
The top seven finishers in Class AAA and top eight in Class AA advanced to the PIAA West Region qualifier at Tom’s Run Golf Course in Blairsville, Wednesday, Oct. 16.
“My putting was a big part of what helped me,” said Waller, who came in as the Section 2 champion. “I made a lot of putts.”
Waller plays on the boys team during the regular season because Canon-McMillan does not field a girls team. She has shot only one round in the 40s this season and carries a handicap of 1.1. She needed those skills on this challenging course.
“There were a lot of trees out there,” she said, “and I was under a lot of them.”
The only glitches in her round came on the 345-yard par-4 eighth and the unusual finishing hole on the front, the 107-yard par-3.
“It’s definitely a nice course, challenging,” Waller said. “I didn’t hit my drives well. I was hitting my drives straight at the range (before the round), but on the course, I didn’t hit it straight. So on the back nine, I tried to swing out and around more. I was thinking (I could shoot) 76, but I definitely felt I could do better.”
Kness, a freshman, admitted to a little bit of nerves but navigated the course with a birdie, 10 pars, six bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-4 16th after her chip out from the treeline caught another tree.
“I could have done better, but my drives just weren’t consistent,” said Kness, who was second to Waller in the Section 2 qualifier. “They were going a little left. I also was having a problem with my irons, so I changed my grip.”
Kness, who came to Peters Township after spending her first eight years at St. Louise De Marillac, a private Catholic school in Upper St. Clair, is excited about her first trip to the state regional qualifier.
“Since I’m young and new to it, I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous,” she said. “If I stay in my game, I’ll be OK.”
Alexander was the defending Class AA champion after shooting a 6-over-par 78 at Three Lakes Golf Course in Saltsburg last year. She also battled a case of nerves, and wasn’t helped by an 8 on her third hole, the par-4 12th. But she rallied nicely and finished with a birdie, nine pars and seven bogeys.
“I’m a different player from last year,” she said. “I think I’ve matured as a player. I’ve been playing for four years, and I’ve kept with it. My game is improving.”
Lucas could get into the regional if one of the other golfers is forced to pull out. She struggled on the back with a triple-bogey and double-bogey before finishing with three straight pars for a 44 and 86 for the round.
“I wanted to shoot well,” said Lucas, who also plays on the Rangers’ volleyball team. “If I made it, I would be shocked, but excited. My driver hasn’t helped me at all. On the first hole, I hit a good drive. But then I went to a hybrid off the tee. My putting and chipping were OK. There were so many trees, and I had to punch out.”