Kate Strickland said she was on the moon after winning the 96th Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship.
Then the 15-year-old found out that she made history. The Lincoln Southwest sophomore-to-be became the youngest golfer to win the match-play event.
“I found out and it made the whole experience even cooler,” Strickland said. “I’m honored to have that.”
Strickland capped her tournament run with a 6 and 4 win against Wahoo’s Lauren Thiele on Wednesday at Fremont Golf Club. And, actually, history was set to made before Stickland and Thiele stepped onto the first tee Wednesday. Thiele is only 15, too.
Strickland was 4 up through the first five holes, and she made a chip shot for birdie on No. 7 to go 5 up. The 15-year-old clinched the win with a par putt on the par-4 14th.
Consistency off the tee and a solid putting game helped Strickland pull away for the win.
“Fundamental shots, getting on the green where I needed to be, and if I didn’t get on the green, I was chipping pretty well,” Strickland said. “That really helped my confidence, especially holing out on seven on the chip-in.”
Strickland is the first Lincoln golfer to win the tournament since Anna Christenson in 2007. She almost didn’t get a chance to improve on last year’s quarterfinal appearance.
On Monday, Strickland trailed Lincoln Southwest teammate Neely Adler 3-up with six holes to play in the first round. Strickland squared the match through 16, and it remained tied after 18. Strickland took the match on the 19th hole.
The momentum from the final seven holes of that match carried through the rest of the tournament for Strickland.
“It was great playing with Neely, and it definitely motivated me the rest of the week, really, because I had to grind it out those last holes,” said Strickland, who won the 2018 Nebraska Girls Amateur. “I really needed to come back and anything can happen in match play, and I just kept reminding myself that it’s not over until it’s over.”
Thiele, a Bishop Neumann sophomore, reached the final with a 20-hole victory against Doniphan’s Brandi Lemek in the semifinals. Strickland reached the final with a 3 and 2 win against Aurora’s Danica Badura.
Strickland has had a busy summer playing golf. She played in the North & South Junior Championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina, which prevented her from playing in the Nebraska State Amateur. She also played in some tournaments in Texas.
Between now and school starting, Strickland will play in American Junior Golf Association tournaments in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
But first, she’ll soak in her latest accomplishment. Strickland is just the fourth junior champion of the Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship.
“I was coming into (match play), going to try again, just thinking last year I didn’t quite get it there,” Strickland said. “I went home earlier than I wanted to, and this year I knew I was going to give it my all and try to get into that final round and see how it goes from there.”