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Westminster's Johnson tames wind for medalist honors; Visitation claims team crown

Westminster's Johnson tames wind for medalist honors; Visitation claims team crown

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Class 2 District 1 Tournament

Westminster's Elizabeth Johnson watches her approach shot during the Class 2 District 1 golf tournament on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Meramec Lakes Golf Course in St. Clair, Mo. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

ST. CLAIR — Westminster junior Ellie Johnson began writing a young adult dystopian novel this summer while abiding by stay-at-home restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If she decides to include a golf scene, then it probably will resemble the conditions she endured Monday.

Playing through a morning rain and 30 mph wind gusts, Johnson fired a 4-over-par 75 to earn medalist honors of the Class 2 District 1 girls golf tournament at Meramec Lakes Golf Course.

Visitation won team championship with a score of 355. Ursuline finished second (376) and Westminster placed third (381). With no sectional tournament this year, the top 18 individual finishers qualified for the 36-hole state competition, to be played Oct. 19-20 at Meadow Lake Acres in New Bloomfield.

As hats flew off heads and leaves danced across greens, Johnson never seemed flustered, tossing grass in the air to check wind direction before unleashing perfect shots down tight fairways.

“I knew it was going to be windy, so I was researching if the grass goes back this far (when I toss it), how much do I need to take off of the club, so I think I did pretty well considering the wind,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s medalist performance began with a scintillating 1-over-par 37 on the front nine thanks to great mid-iron play and an excellent short game. But on the wide-open back nine, the wind played havoc with several shots and Johnson had to scramble.

On the par-3 11th hole, Johnson’s drive drifted right, and she found her ball resting along the tree line. A 25-yard chip over a sand trap left her a sidewinding, downhill 22-foot putt to save par — which she drained.

She saved par on the 14th with an uphill 10-foot putt, and her rescue club did its job on 15 with the help of a cooperative cart path that propelled her ball to the front of the green.

But the gusty wind finally enveloped her ball on the 16th hole, when her tee shot on the 126-yard, par-3 drifted right, landed just off the fringe of the green and bounded into a pond. The resulting triple bogey was about the only the blemish in a five-shot victory.

“The wind was blowing so hard, and I aimed so far left, but the wind just took it and there was nothing I could do about it,” Johnson said.

She rebounded by lacing perfect drives down the narrow 17th and 18th fairways to finish her nearly flawless round with successive pars. 

Johnson, who also is a member of the rock-climbing club at Westminster, has written 269 pages and more than 70 thousand words in her dystopian novel about two 18-year-olds trying to cope with a pandemic sweeping over America.

“I started writing it because I was mad about having to stay home,” Johnson said.

Class 2 District 1 Tournament

Visitation's Grace Fagan hits her tee shot during the Class 2 District 1 golf tournament on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Meramec Lakes Golf Course in St. Clair, Mo. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

Johnson will not have to stay home during the state tournament next week, and neither will the entire Visitation team, which qualified all five of its golfers. That includes freshman Grace Fagan (84), sophomore Ava Sanford (85) and junior Lucy Trover (87), who placed third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Despite the youth of Fagan, Sanford and freshman Emma Kate Winter, the Vivettes handled the blustery conditions.

“It was tough out there," Visitation coach Julie Jones said. "The wind is blowing towards all the hazards and all the bounces are going towards the hazards, but they hit a lot of great shots down the stretch and finished strong.” 

Vivettes junior captain Lucy Trover, who along with Sanford qualified for state last season, led her teammates through a practice round at Meramec Lakes on Sunday to prepare them for the challenges they might encounter.

“We helped each other with what we were looking at on each of the holes and how to play them well,” Trover said.

Ursuline and Incarnate Word qualified four golfers for states, and along with Visitation, will be eligible to win a Class 2 state team title at Meadow Lake Acres.

Ursuline was led by senior Erin Fagan, whose smooth lefty swing and delicate short game propelled her to a season-best 81 to place second overall.

“If I was going to a good round, today was the day. I was getting a little nervous when it started raining, but once the sun came out, I got in the zone,” Fagan said.

Her tremendous touch around the greens was on full display on the back nine. She lofted a perfect chip on 14 for a tap-in par and delivered another beauty from atop a mound on 17 that stopped within eight feet and led to another one-putt par.

“My chipping today was unlike I’ve ever chipped before to be honest,” said Fagan. “Usually my driving is what is really strong, but today that was not the case, so I knew I needed to make up for it with my chipping and putting.”

Fagan’s day got even better when she heard that her younger sister Molly, who shot a 93, also qualified for state, the first time both will be playing in the final event of the season.

“I love it. That is going to be really exciting,” Fagan said.

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