2019 Female Golfer of the Year
Whether she intends to or not, Riley Hansen has a habit of repeating herself.
A Bureau County native who plays for Kewanee High School, she’s a four-time defending Three-Rivers Conference champ, four-time 1A regional champ, four-time 1A state qualifier, and three-time 1A All-State finisher.
Now, Riley Hansen repeats as the BCR Girls Golfer of the Year.
“I’m honored, honestly,” Hansen, daughter of Kandice and Scott Hansen of Neponset, said.
Hansen has been golfing for as long as she can remember, though she didn’t get serious about it until the sixth grade, and it was the only sport she was interested in.
“Everyone in my family golfs, but my grandpa was the best one, and he taught me,” she said. “I could never beat him, though, I was still pretty young,” she said, laughing.
Hansen credits early good hand-eye coordination with helping her take to the game easier.
“A lot came naturally, but my Mom said I had a really bad swing,” she said. “But my grandpa worked with me, I was only seven. Swinging the driver was easier, but irons gave me trouble.”
For all of her repeats, she was fortunate to be a leader in the first official year of Kewanee’s girls golf team, who won their inaugural “Boiler Invitational” in September and also qualified for state for the fourth straight time.
For her first three years as a Kewanee golfer, Hansen mostly played alongside the boys, which she didn’t mind a bit.
“I knew for sure that I wanted to play on the varsity boys team,” she said. “They were really good to me.”
“It’s difficult to be asked to play varsity No. 1 on the boys team all the time,” said her coach Kirk Fristad. “She has and feels pressure because of her past success, and she handles that pressure well.”
Hansen added, “But I never really thought about going to state (as a freshman). But once I did, obviously I wanted to go in every year.”
This year, Hansen had a 37.7 average in both boys and girls events combined, placed fifth in the boys Boiler Invite, and first in the Geneseo Girls Invite and the Boiler Girls Invite.
“It was fun, especially to have a girls team with me this year,” Hansen said. “I knew the competition I was going to be up against, so I extra prepared during the summer, mostly on my chipping and putting.”
Hansen also won individual titles at the Three Rivers Conference tournament and 1A Kewanee Regional, while placing third at the St. Bede 1A Sectional (74) to qualify again for state along with her teammates.
“It was really cold and windy (at sectional), that’s mostly what I remember, “ she said with a laugh. “The four birdies I had on the back nine helped.”
This year’s trip to state was both familiar and new for Hansen, as she was not alone in her experience this time.
Joining her this year were teammates Natalie Yepson (junior), who frequently joined her on the leader board last season, along with freshmen Mya Mirocha and Aspen Schwickeroth.
“The competition was a lot harder, but I had my team with me, and they helped me calm down a little bit and have fun,” she said. “I’m friends with all the girls.”
Hansen carded a 75 on Friday’s round and naturally repeated with another 75 for Saturday’s round for a weekend total of 150, good for an eighth-place finish. She was state runner-up as a sophomore.
With all she has achieved, Hansen wouldn’t mind continuing her success at her next stop, Western Illinois University, where her choice of a major is still undecided.
Her choice of sport there, of course, is a given.
“That (golf) will be taking up most of my schedule,” she said with a grin.
The Riley Hansen file:
* Two-time BCR Golfer of the Year
• Four-time Three Rivers champion
• Four-time state qualifier
• Eighth-place medal at state (senior year)
• State runner-up (sophomore year)
• First at Geneseo girls Invite
• First at Boiler Girls Invite
• 37.7 average
• Will play golf at Western Illinois