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Piar records career-best 66 in helping Alton Marquette to Blast Off championship

Piar records career-best 66 in helping Alton Marquette to Blast Off championship

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ALTON — Gracie Piar calmly drilled three successive putts from three feet out on the practice green.

The Alton Marquette senior then promptly put her golf glove on the precise spot in the back of her skirt just minutes before teeing off in the Alton Marquette Blast Off Classic on Saturday at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course.

Once the life-long superstitions were taken care of, Piar went out and made history.

The long-hitter fired a career-best 6-under-par 66 to grab medalist honors in the talent-rich 108-player field.

Piar, already one of the most decorated players in the area, added another chapter to her rich legacy with an out-of-this-world effort on a warm afternoon. Her round included five birdies and two eagles. The second eagle came on the final hole.

"I was just feeling it today," Piar said.

Piar relies on a trio of superstitions to get prepared. She must make three successive short putts before heading to the tee box. Sometimes, it takes five or six tries to get the job done.

On Saturday, she did it on the first try, rolling the balls in the hole in rapid-fire order.

"That told me that it was probably going to be a good day," Piar said. "And it was."

Good is an understatement.

Piar used a strong short game to set up one birdie putt after another. Normally not a strength, she was on-point with her iron shots.

"When she gets on the golf course, she's just so super-determined," Marquette coach Deb Walsh said. "Her game is nails all the time."

Piar finished four shots ahead of O'Fallon junior Reagan Martin, who also fired a career-best with a 2-under 70. Martin was in the same foursome as Piar, which she said helped lift her game to a new level.

"Playing with someone that good challenges me," Martin said. "You want to be as good as possible when you're around her."

The Explorers rode Piar and a balanced attack to the team title with a score of 313. O'Fallon finished second at 320 followed by Effingham St. Anthony (343) and Waterloo (353). O'Fallon had won the tournament each of the last five years it had been entered in the early-season showdown.

The red-hot Piar continues to sizzle after a strong June, July and August on the junior tour.

"This summer and the start of this (high school) season have been great," Piar said. "I just hope I can keep it going."

The last of Piar's three superstitions is a simple one. She has to place the cover on her putter in the exact spot after each hole. Any interruption in those traditions might just throw her off.

"You get in the habit of doing the same things every time, it makes you feel comfortable," Piar said. "I've been doing it for so long, it's just a regular part of what I do."

Piar is headed to the California State University at Northridge next season.

But she has several more goals to achieve before her high school career comes to a close. Piar wants to grab medalist honors in every single tournament this season. So far she is 3-for-3 including a win in the Madison Country Tournament earlier this week.

Plus, she is hoping to lead the Explorers to the state title. Marquette senior Audrey Cain fired a 78 on Saturday to finish in a tie for third with junior Sophia Florek of Mascoutah. Ava Bartosiak (82) and Clancy Maag (87) rounded out the winning lineup.

"We're playing well and we think we've got a pretty good shot," Cain said of a potential team title.

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