No stage fright for young Pekin girls golf team

Steve Stein
Pekin's Lauren Minkel gets out of trouble Saturday during the Lady Dragon Classic.

PEKIN -- Finishing in eighth place in a 14-team tournament doesn't seem like a big deal.

But it certainly was for the Pekin girls golf team in the 19th annual Lady Dragon Classic, held Saturday at Lick Creek Golf Course.

Playing with a five-golfer lineup that included four freshmen and a sophomore, the Dragons posted their best finish in the tournament since placing seventh in 2015.

Pekin had a 396 team score Saturday. The last time the Dragons broke 400 in the tournament was 2013, when they finished third.

Sophomore Lauren Minkel led the way Saturday for Pekin, shooting 92 and finishing in a tie for 20th place in the individual standings. Sydney Hubner (95), Rachel Filarski (101) and Mylee Hansen (108) also scored for the Dragons.

Sierra Sitter (117) completed Pekin's lineup.

Pekin coach Chris Neville was effusive in his praise for his young team.

"We talked all week about how this event -- our event -- is, in my eyes, where the season truly begins," he said. "After seven weeks of practice and matches, we're at the most important part of the season, the part people remember.

"We were focused (Saturday). We didn't let things bother us as much as they did earlier in the season. We putted OK, but hit the ball from tee to green better.

"There are still short game concerns, but this is another positive step in our team's development, to play well on a big stage at our home course. We need to do it again (Oct. 7) at the regional we'll host."

Neville said Minkel has been playing her best golf ever in the last 10 days, and has emerged as a team leader.

"That's pretty high stuff for a sophomore, but Lauren is doing all the correct things as it pertains to the team," Neville said.

Neville said Hubner told him Saturday before the tournament that she's figured something out with her iron game "and she hit it great most of the day."

It was windy Saturday and the Lick Creek course was soft, causing it to play a little longer than usual.

Normal U. High won the tournament for the first time since 2009, and the fifth time overall. The Pioneers had five of the best 11 scores.

Bloomington Central Catholic (342) and Peoria Notre Dame (369) finished second and third and also won team trophies.

Eureka's Allison Pacocha and U. High's Reagan Kennedy shared individual medalist honors, each shooting 4-under-par 76. There was no playoff to break the tie.

Washington (373), Dunlap (374), Peoria Richwoods (389), Morton (390), Pekin (396), Normal Community (399), Eureka (402), Canton (413), Normal West (431), Limestone (464) and East Peoria (482) followed U. High, Central Catholic and Notre Dame in the team standings.

Chillicothe IVC had just three golfers in its lineup, one short of what's needed for a team score.

Pekin's Brooklyn Bishop (129) and Abigail Strode (136) played as individuals.

In other Pekin girls golf team news:

NEXT: Pekin faced Limestone on Monday in a Mid-Illini Conference match at Lick Creek. It was the final conference dual match of the season for the Dragons.

The Mid-Illini tournament will be Thursday at Quail Meadows Golf Course.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.

Rachel Filarski of Pekin watches her putt Saturday during the Lady Dragon Classic.