MCNABB — It was a bittersweet day at Edgewood Park where the annual Illinois Valley Women’s Golf Invitational was held Sunday. The tournament, which has been held since 1958, was dedicated to the hosts’ team member Pat Balconi who died unexpectedly in April. Balconi’s daughter, Carol, won the tournament shooting a 76 over the 18-hole course.
“Believe it or not I was calm all day. I was thinking about my mom the whole round,” said Carol. “I was not thinking about golf. My playing partners (Penny Derick, Gwen Holmes and Kirsten McLendon) were so fun to play with.”
Carol, a two-time former champion who has not played in the event since 2009 and her mother played the Edgewood course often. She mentioned she had no expectations coming into the tournament except to play well enough to make her mom happy.
“I came here to play for my mom. It was so nice. I think I had a lot of help from her,” said Carol.
Hole 15 was where the game changed for Balconi — when then tournament leader Holmes shot a bogey and Balconi recorded the first of her two birdies on the game. The deal breaker for the tournament came at No. 18 where Holmes again went one stroke over and Balconi earned her second birdie of the game.
Another reason the game was special to Balconi was the fact her father, Art Balconi, was able to watch her.
“This is the first tournament he has ever been able to watch me play because we always had the tavern, so he was always working,” said Carol. “This is the first time he has ever seen me play in any tournament.”
Former teammate Derick, who finished second in the tournament with a 79, was happy for her friend.
“I was rooting for Carol the whole round, and that was hard to do and play your own game,” she said. “It just worked out; it couldn’t have been better — first and second place.”
Holmes finished third, shooting an 81 in the tournament. She said it was very disappointing not to be able to hold on to the lead. Holmes was runner-up in 2012 behind Katie Farrell, who was unable to play this year.
Putnam County High School senior-to-be Stephanie Wilson came in fourth, shooting an 86 over the 18 holes. Rounding out the top 10 were Cyndi Palm in fifth with a 92; Kirsten McLendon, sixth, 93; Pam Mertel, seventh, 94; Katie Gregorich, eighth, 95; Kathy Potthoff, ninth, 98; and Lori Kierski in 10th with a 107.
Wyaton Hills’ Michelle Rowley won the A Flight title after a playoff with Green River’s Karen Anderson. Both shot 91s.
Other flight winners were Tammy Beard of the Mendota Golf Club in “B” with a 92 and Connie Banks of Spring Creek in “C” with a 98.
Top team gross was won by Edgewood with a 333 combined score. Low net was won by the Spring Creek ladies with a 277 combined score.
Others awards included Nancy Prafcke of Oak Ridge being awarded first place in the senior division (age 62-69), while Nancy Debord of Chapel Hill took first in the super senior division, (age 70 and up), shooting a 97.