WALNUT — The 56th annual Illinois Valley Women’s Golf Invitational kicked off Sunday with a buzz of anticipation, as a never before champion would be crowned later in the afternoon.
A crowd slowly began to build around the ninth green as the day went on, and onlookers waited anxiously for the Championship Flight to finish and the scores to be posted.
After trailing Terry Folmer of Oak Ridge by five strokes after posting a 47 on the front, Tammy Howlett representing Green River Country Club needed to make a run on the final nine holes to get back in it.
And did she ever ... posting a 40 for a round of 87 to edge out Folmer by one stroke to take home the Illinois Valley Women’s Golf Invitational title. Alicia Yuvan of Spring Creek placed third at 89.
A wave of emotion ran over the first-time winner, as she hugged friends and family. Tears of joy began to roll down her face as she embraced her husband, Mike Howlett, president of Green River Country Club.
After 10-plus years of playing this tournament, Tammy had finally broken through to become champion, and she couldn’t contain her emotions.
“It’s still not sinking in yet; I just thought I shot a 47 on the front and came back with a 40,” Howlett said. “I thought that was pretty good, so I didn’t think it was good enough. But I guess it was.”
Howlett needed a stellar back nine to close the five-stroke gap on Folmer, but the most important single shot of the day, according to Howlett, came on the sixth hole.
“My chip-in for eagle on 6,” Howlett said thinking about the turning point in her day.
After a beautiful drive on the Par 3, 206-yard hole, Howlett calmly walked to her ball that had settled just off the green, elected to chip with her putter and sunk the mid-range shot giving her an eagle as well as momentum for the rest of the day.
The host team won the team championship with a score of 372. Joining Howlett for Green River were Angie Carl (91), Karen Anderson (93) and Rosie Wallace (101).
Howlett attributed some of her success Sunday on knowing the course, in particular the greens, as others not as familiar with the course struggled in this area.
“I struggled with putting. I had like 50 putts today,” Sophia Suarez, a senior golfer for Princeton High School said as she played Green River for only the second time.
Suarez finished the day in sixth place with a score of 96.
Anderson, the Green River chairwoman, played well except for one hole that was her downfall, as she placed fifth in what was at least her 13th consecutive time playing in the tournament.
“The back nine I started out with a nine, and that wasn’t pretty. I tried to get my groove back but that just didn’t happen,” Anderson said. ”I chipped and putted better than normal, and that was good because that’s not normally my strong point. Usually my long game is my better game, but that wasn’t so today.”
Anderson attributes the success of the tournament to the sportsmanship between the competitors and the hard work of the volunteers and staff.
“Everything ran smoothly; they have a lot of volunteers. It was nice having all these people step up to help out and make such a great day and tournament,” Anderson said.
Notes: Champions from the other flights include Nancy Debord of Chapel in Flight A with a round of 95; Bonnie Skaggs of Indian Hills in Flight B with a round of 94; and Kathy Farrell of Chapel Hill in Flight C with a round a 97 ... Chapel Hill was the low net team winner, paced by Kathy Farrell (65), Teri Mertens (70), Linda Winkelman (72) and Nancy Debord (74). Winkelman was the Super Senior Champion ... Spring Creek’s Kathy Potthoff was the senior champion at 92.
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