Kate Smith of Detroit Lakes hoists the Class 2A trophy (Timothy Nwachukwu, Special to the Star Tribune)
Kate Smith isn’t an emotional person. She couldn’t get off the 18th green at Ridges at Sand Creek on Wednesday without shedding tears.
The Detroit Lakes senior rolled in 6-foot par putt on the final hole of the Class 2A tournament in Jordan to share the girls’ medalist honors with Anni Heck of Visitation, and become the state’s first five-time individual champion (girls or boys). Heck concluded play moments before Smith’s final putt.
“That was the longest 6-foot putt of my career,” said Smith, who finished tied with Heck with 5-under-par 139s. “I thought it was going to stop halfway there. I was extremely happy when it went in.”
Smith ended her career with five consecutive rounds of 2-under-par or lower in the state tournament. She shot a 70 in the final round after opening with a 3-under-par 69 on Tuesday.
“I didn’t play my best, but I hit the ball really well,” Smith said. “Some putts didn’t fall, and it made for a stressful situation coming down to the end.”
It marked the third time Smith shared the title. She won the championship outright in 2012 and 2015.
“Today has been so emotional, and history making,” Detroit Lakes coach Cali Harrier said. “Kate is a coach’s dream.”
Heck, a junior, matched Smith by turning in the best back-to-back rounds of her career. She opened the second round with a 3-under-par 33 on the backside, including back-to-back birdies. Both golfers shot a 35 on their final nine.
“Those two holes were the game-changer,” Heck said. “My game is as strong as it’s ever been right now.”
It had to be to equal Smith, who wasn’t done holding up championship trophies. The Lakers won the team crown for the fourth time over the same span, the lone blemish being a runner-up finish to Red Wing last year.
“We didn’t think we could get it done this year,” Smith said. The Lakers topped Lake City by nine strokes for the title. “It’s all so surreal being my senior year. It’s amazing.”
In the Class 2A boys’ tournament, Blake sophomore Derek Hitchner was seeking a signature round. It came at the most opportune time.
Hitchner fired a blazing 7-under-par 65 in the opening round in the morning, and cruised to an 11-stroke victory. It also helped the Bears successfully defend their team title, which they shared with Mankato East last year.
“That was my best round ever, and first round with no bogeys,” Hitchner said. “Every aspect of my game clicked today.”