MASSILLON — Niki Schroeder was rolling Tuesday afternoon. The Avon Lake sophomore was just 3-over par heading into her final hole at the Legends of Massillon Division I district tournament, and knew another par would put her in prime position to grab an individual state berth.
Then a potential disaster struck.
The second-team All-Ohioan suddenly lost her stroke and finished with a double bogey. Adding to the heart-pounding, she had to wait 2½ hours for the rest of the scores to trickle in to reach a final verdict.
“I couldn’t sit still, especially after I took a double on the last hole, which was tough to end on,” Schroeder said after carding a 77. “I knew that there might be a playoff, so I said, ‘Forget about it,’ but I couldn’t stop moving back and forth and looking at the scoreboard.”
Schroeder killed time by striping ball after ball on the driving range at Legend of Massillon Golf Club. She also joked with good friend Jessica Porvasnik of Medina Highland and poked fun at her father’s ever-changing body language that depends largely on what Niki did on the previous hole.
When the dust settled at 6:35 p.m. — the long day was made ever longer by a one-hour morning frost delay — Schroeder learned she was heading back to Columbus.
Her smile couldn’t have been wider.
“I’m ready to get to work now,” she said.
Schroeder finished with a 39 on the East Course, and added a 38 on the slightly longer and hazard-filled South Course, which is known for its meandering creeks and freshly cut greens.
But that’s now in the past, as Schroeder is already looking ahead at improving her 10th-place finish at state from a year ago.
“I think I played well today,” she said. “There were just a few shots that got away from me. I lipped a few putts out, and that’s always going to happen. I think the key (at state) is going to be my short game and putting.”
Despite Schroeder’s strong day — only 10 other players broke 80 — Avon Lake (402) finished 15th. Corynn Kriec (89) was the only other Shoregal to break 100.
While Schroeder was celebrating her return to state, Avon’s Kaitlin Neumann was left pondering the what-ifs after missing an individual berth by five strokes.
The senior had a solid 38 on the East, but couldn’t overcome the South en route to a 44 to cap an otherwise outstanding career in which she competed in four district tournaments, led the Eagles to four West Shore Conference championships and won a sectional medalist award as a junior.
“Today obviously wasn’t my best day and I hoped to be a few shots lower,” she said. “My goal was to shoot around 78. I just needed to get to the 70s, but I made it here every single year, and it’s great.
“This team was great. Everyone’s a little bit different and everyone meshes together.”
Avon (371) finished 10th as a team, with Sarah Warnkin (83) and Hannah Strack (95) also breaking 100.
North Ridgeville freshman Nicole Gerome, who landed the final district berth at the sectional at Sweetbriar, finished three strokes short of an individual berth with an 80.
She is the first player to in school history to reach districts, and was more than happy to be there.
“I had some awesome shots,” she said. “I felt like I could have played better, but I played well. I went to this tournament to not beat the other girls, but to beat the other scores I’ve gotten this year and beat the course.”
MASSILLON — Results from the Legends of Massillon Division I District at par-72 Legend of Massillon Golf Club’s South and East courses:
Team standings (top five advance to Oct. 18-19 state tournament): 1. Massillon Jackson 313, 2. Magnificat 315, 3. Highland 321, 4. North Canton Hoover 343, 5. Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin 351, 6. Canfield 352, 7. Geneva 358, 8. Walsh Jesuit 364, 9. Dover 370, 10. Avon 371, 11. Hudson 384, 12. Warren Howland 386, 13. Solon 390, 14. St. Joseph Academy 392, 15. Avon Lake 402, 16. Stow 442.
Avon (371): Kaitlin Neumann 38-44-82, Sarah Warnkin 45-48-93, Hannah Strack 50-45-95, Anna Schatschneider 43-48-101, Taylor Doehne 49-56-105.
Avon Lake (402): Niki Schroeder 39-38-77, Corynn Kriec 47-42-89, Taylor Browns 53-61-114, Bridget McCoy 64-58-122, Rebecca Lyman 66-68-134.
Other Lorain County participant: Nicole Gerome (North Ridgeville) 80.
Medalist: Cassie Pantelas (Jackson) 71. Individual qualifiers: Alice Ho (Wadsworth) 75, Kasey Nielsen (Kent Roosevelt) 75, Danielle Nicholson (Geneva) 75, Schroeder (AL) 77, Kelly Nieslen (Kent Roosevelt) 77.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.