Lauren Falley enjoyed heading to the first tee at Auburn Hills for Thursday’s final round of the Kansas Women’s Amateur with a five-shot lead.
The Oklahoma State senior didn’t want to be too obsessed with it, though.
“I just wanted to go out there and not worry about what the other girls were doing,” Falley said. “I wanted to stick to my game and make as many pars as possible.”
One by one, Falley’s pars pulled her closer to the championship. She made 14 of them on the way to a 4-over-par 76 that preserved her advantage over runner-up Gianna Misenhelter, a Kansas State senior.
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Falley, a 21-year-old from Topeka, posted a 54-hole score of 1-over 217 to win the state women’s title for the first time. Misenhelter, who defeated Falley two years ago for the championship at McPherson’s Turkey Creek, also shot 76 on Thursday to finish at 222.
“Lauren didn’t make a mistake in two days,” said Misenhelter, an Overland Park native who won a state high school title for St. Thomas Aquinas in 2007 at Auburn Hills. “The only time I saw her make one today was on the final hole, and it was too late for me to make up any ground.”
Falley, the only golfer to break par in each of the tournament’s first two rounds, made three bogeys in the first seven holes on Thursday. But Misenhelter, plagued by a double bogey on the par-5 third hole, wasn’t able to cut in to Falley’s lead.
“The front nine is really the quirky side, the one where you’re going to make some bogeys,” Falley said. “I made the bogeys on the hard holes, so I knew I was going to be OK. I knew there were going to be some birdie opportunities on the back.”
Falley finished the final round without a birdie. But with several challenging pin placements and windy conditions, there was only one in the final threesome when Misenhelter rolled in an 8-footer on the par-5 10th.
That got Misenhelter within four shots of Falley. But as Falley routinely hit the fairway or close to it off the tee, the challengers’ fates were eventually sealed.
At the par-4 13th, Misenhelter hit her tee shot into a lateral hazard and eventually bogeyed. Overland Park’s Ani Kruse, a Seton Hall golfer who started the final round in third, hit her drive into tall rough left of the 13th fairway. She couldn’t find the ball and made a double bogey to drop eight shots behind Falley.
Falley reeled off 10 consecutive pars before she hit her tee shot into tall rough at the par-5 18th. She took a one-shot penalty for an unplayable lie and finished with a bogey, but her victory margin matched her lead at the start of the day. Misenhelter was second and Andover’s Amanda Booth, who carded a 1-over 73, vaulted into third at 224.
“Ever since April, something happened in my game where I kind of figured it out,” said Falley, who helped Oklahoma State win the Big 12 title this spring. “I’ve been playing really well since then.
“I got a lot of distance this past year from working out and just improved my short game. I’ve been trying really hard to hone in on putting and chipping, and I think it’s really shown.”
In the tournament’s open division for golfers 35 and older, Winfield’s Gail Burden shot a 3-over 75 on Thursday to edge 2012 champion Sandy Preston of Manhattan by one stroke. Burden posted a three-round total of 237.
Championship flight — 1. Lauren Falley, Topeka, 217; 2. Gianna Misenhelter, Overland Park, 222; 3. Amanda Booth, Andover, 224; 4. Alison Kruse, Overland Park, 226; 5. Audrey Yowell, McPherson, 236; 6. Audrey Meisch, Wichita, 238; 7. Baile Winslow, Overland Park, 239; 8. Taylor Gard, Chanute, 240; 9. Madison Murphy, Wichita, 241; 10. Alex Beury, Benton, 245; 11. Taelyn Entriken, Wichita, 245; 12. Grace Yowell, McPherson, 246.
First flight — 1. Anne Willman, Prairie Village, 242; 2. Alexa Osbourn, Overland Park, 242; 3. Michelle Woods, Manhattan, 242; 4. Macy Lamela, McPherson, 245; 5. Mackenzie Thayer, Garden City, 246; 6.Jaci Henderson, Derby, 249; 7. Makena Mucciaccio, Wichita, 252; 8. Nicolle Beury, Wichita, 255; 9. Denise Desilet, Wichita, 256; 10. Abbey Campbell, Garden City, 258; 11. Kaleigh Ashen, Overland Park, 262.
Second flight — 1. Laine Evans, Wichita, 257; 2. Courtney Wells, Derby, 266; 3. Nicole McCurdy, Overland Park, 273; 4. Madeline Sherman, Andover, 274; 5. Nicole Pickett, Olathe, 282; 6. Amber Mechtley, Emporia, 297; 7. Spencer Slane, Wichita, 303; 8. Alexandra Jennings, Wichita, 308; 9. Alex Lashley, Goddard, 310; 10. Sydney Murray, Wichita, 310.
Championship flight — 1. Gail Burden, Winfield, 237; 2. Sandy Preston, Manhattan, 238; 3. Letty Watt, Hutchinson, 246; 4. Barbara Gourlay, Manhattan, 246; 5. Nancy Volkmann, Manhattan, 249; 6. Darlene Allen, Topeka, 252; 7. Valeda Bahl, Wichita, 255; 8. Cindy Norris, Topeka 257; 9. Phyllis Fast, Topeka, 258; 10. Terri Albers, Oakley, 264.
First flight — 1. MaryLee Evans, Wichita, 258; 2. Kathy Thomas, Lees Summit, 261; 3. Barbara Ford-Buell, Wichita, 263; 4. Marcia Holston, Topeka, 265; 5. Shirley Blick, Maize, 269; 6. Debbie King, Liberal, 274; 7. Marcia Alterman, Wichita, 275; 8. Jan Knuth, Wichita, 305; 9. Linda Phillips, Liberal, 315.