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Itzen advances, Spartans don’t

May 29, 2016

NEVADA - If there was ever a physical description of the word bittersweet, it could have probably been found in Jill Itzen's tears on Monday afternoon, after qualifying for the Class 3A state golf tournament at Indian Creek Country Club.

The Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior was elated after shooting an 86, placing third overall and punching her individual ticket to the state meet - held at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames, May 31- June 1. But the tears she had also mixed in a bit of sorrow, as the Spartans failed to place among the top two teams and missed qualifying for the state meet.

"It's going to be really strange. That's why I'm in tears," Itzen said "It'll be different because I've never had that experience before. It put it in perspective today when I was focusing more on myself and getting out of my head. I [understand] that I can play well. I'll just give it my all because it will be my last chance to play.

The Spartans shot a 392 for fourth place, just one stroke behind host team Nevada, which shot 391. Atlantic and Shenandoah qualified for the state meet by shooting 363 and 383 in a highly contested district meet Monday.

It's been 12 years since the Spartans failed to qualify for the final meet of the season. And while she struggled to find the perfect balance of emotions Monday, Itzen said she'll need to continue getting out of her own way when it comes to playing the links.

"It was more just playing my game and getting out of my head," Itzen said. "I haven't had the best rounds the past couple times. And I knew this could be my last possible round because I am a senior. So I just gave it my all, did my best, and I was proud of what I did."

The phrase "getting out of my head" was something Itzen used to explain how she was able to manage a seemingly unmanageable course Monday.

"Everyone says, 'Get out of your head. Get out of your head.' And then, I just [thought], 'Maybe if I actually do get out of my head, I'd play well,'" Itzen said. "So I actually listened to everybody that said it."

GC/G-R leading scorer, Kate Ross, tallied a 103 after shooting 56 on the first nine. Nevada's Claire Ausman, who shot a 78 at Lincoln Valley Golf Course in State Center last Monday at the sectionals meet, shot an 86 to lead the Cubs on their home course.

Winds reached up to 20 miles per hour at times, while temperatures remained in the mid-70s. Fast greens and a lack of a short game were what co-head coach Jocilyn Onnen said contributed to an off-game performance from the rest of the Spartans.

"It's tighter than what we're used to and shorter than what we're used to," Onnen said. "So, while we're used to playing the long ball, and it's the short game comes to matter, I guess that's just not our strong point. We learned a lot from this year, so that's good."

After the final scores were tallied and the golfers' bags were being packed up, Onnen still scrambled to find words to explain what exactly went awry. Despite not taking six to Ames at the end of the month, the Spartans will still have a lone golfer on the links, representing the marron and white.

"We just stayed away from her. I don't know if that helped or what. Kassi [Nelson] and I just stepped back and let her do her thing," Onnen said. "I'm just so happy for her. She's a senior and she deserves it."

Heading into the state meet on May 31, Itzen will be representing three communities; those of Grundy Center, Gladbrook and Reinbeck. The senior from Grundy Center said she doesn't feel like having the weight of those representations on her shoulders will have a negative effect on her game.

"I wouldn't say it adds pressure," Itzen said. "It's cool to think I'll be representing that big of a group. As long as I stay relaxed, I'll be OK."

Abby Hockemeyer shot a 99 and Sarah Hockemeyer found some trials on the back nine, shooting a 55 on the latter part of the day, finishing with a 104. Reagan Derrick shot 114 and Sasha Nagle recovered from a challenging first nine, going 73-59, finishing with a 132.



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