ALTON — The Marquette Catholic Explorers achieved a program first on Wednesday, they won a regional title.
The Explorers fired a 359 to win by 22 strokes on Wednesday at the Class A Marquette Regional at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton. Columbia (381) and Althoff (383) finished second and third to also advance out of regionals. The field from Alton will participate in the Salem Sectional at Salem Country Club on Monday.
Roxana junior Bailey Sharpmack paced the individuals, carding an 80 to earn medalist honors. She won by four strokes over runner-up Tia Kimbrough (84) of Althoff.
“It's super exciting to win out here,” Marquette head coach Deb Walsh said. “We've played out here all year and we were hoping things would move in a good direction. We decided hosting regionals this year would be a good spot for us. We love this course, it's in great shape and it was pristine today and played super, super good.”
Marquette's Ellie Kane led the lineup with an 86. She was one of three Explorers to break 90 on Wednesday, which wasn't an easy task on the long course. Lauren Walsh (87), Annie Kane (88) and Madi Connors (98) rounded out the scoring for the Explorers.
But even with a comfortable victory, Ellie believed her and her teammates could have played better.
“We didn't play our best, but we still came out with the victory,” she said. “We played pretty good, but it could have been better. It gives us a lot of confidence though. We're hoping to do really good at sectionals and hopefully move forward from there, too.”
For Sharpmack, securing medalist was very rewarding. She qualified out of the Roxana Regional at Belk Park Golf Course a year ago, but shot a 96 to nab the ninth spot individually.
Her skills have blossomed as a junior and she thought she was at the top of her game at Spencer T. Olin.
“I think today had to do a lot with the great condition of the golf course,” Sharpmack said. “I think they kept it up very well and they do a good job here.
“My driver seemed to be on today and that really helped with the distance on the course.”
Sharpmack will now turn her attention at advancing to state. As a sophomore she narrowly missed the cut and it's made her hungrier for success this year.
“This gives me more confidence than I had because it shows me what I'm capable of and it gives me something to work at,” Sharpmack said. “My ultimate goal is to get to state, but I just want to take it one match at a time and not think of the other matches ahead. I just wanted to focus on trying to get through the regional and now trying to get through the sectional.
“I missed (state) by two strokes last year, so I'm very excited (to have another chance to get there). I think it's a reachable goal this year and it just depends on how I play and how the course plays.”
Marquette's focus will turn to qualifying for state as a team. It would only mark the second time in school history for that to happen.
The Explorers advanced to state in 2000 at the Marquette Sectional at Rolling Hills Golf Course. That was during a one-class golf system and they finished runner-up to Edwardsville at sectionals. They went on to finish 15th at state.
Mary Ellen Jacobs was a sophomore on that team and went on to win state individually for Marquette two years later as a senior.
An opportunity to play at state again as a team would be a great accomplishment for the '16 squad.
“Our goal is definitely going to state as a team,” Ellie said.
She added, “But if we can make it out as individuals that would still be good, too.”
Walsh admitted the Explorers don't know much about the Salem Country Club, but they do know it plays long off the tees. Playing Spencer T. Olin on a daily basis throughout the season will definitely help prepare Marquette for that.
“That's what I'm hoping for,” Walsh said. “It's something that Spencer T. represents and I'm hoping that's the way Salem is.
“We've had consistent scoring this year. We've really played well all year. Those are the hardest working girls I've ever coached. They don't mind coming in early, staying late, they don't have any issue doing that and they've worked hard to get to this point. Last night we stayed out here until about 7:30 and they made sure they knew how to play every hole. They deserve what they got, they've worked very hard.”
The rest of the team standings on Wednesday rounded out with: Okawville (391), Mater Dei (398), Highland (400), Freeburg (435), Civic Memorial (440), Greenville (442), Staunton (454), Breese Central (472) and Roxana (522).
Unfortunately for the Eagles, their season came to a close on Wednesday. Isabella Roberts (102), Carmen Phillips (107), Sophie Blagoue (115) and Maisey Watson (116) provided the scoring for CM. Roberts missed the cut individually by two strokes.
The Shells entered just four golfers. Besides Sharpmack, Amanda Morgan, Mable Montano and Linzi Sweetin participated in the regional.