UPPER MERION – Kaitlyn Lees has been plotting an ambitious summer schedule on the golf course, but there was one little piece of business to take care of before putting the spring campaign in the books.
The Agnes Irwin junior, who plays out of Philadelphia Country Club, was the surprising winner of the Inter-Ac League championship as a seventh-grader four years ago. Since then, she had been second, third and second again. It was time to get her hands on that championship trophy again.
Lees accomplished that with a hard-working, even-par 37 on the challenging 2,677-yard, par-37 front nine at Gulph Mills Golf Club Wednesday.
Lees finished four shots clear of runnerup Lauren Jones of Episcopal Academy, who carded a 41, while Notre Dame junior Olivia Traynor, who won the Inter-Ac title as a freshman two years, finished third with a 42.
The temperature soared Wednesday, but that didn’t seem to bother the players much. The occasional breezes made club selection tough and the slopes on Gulph Mills greens made for some nervous putting.
“The greens are tough here,” said Lees, who will be going for a third Pennsylvania Junior Girls’ championship this summer at Hershey Country Club. “But we are really lucky to get to play our championship on such a great golf course.”
Lees picked up a couple of early birdies on the first and third holes, par-5s on the ladies card at Gulph Mills, but easily reachable in two for a player of Lees’ length. She had good looks at eagle on both holes, but settled for two-putt birdies.
They were sandwiched around a bogey when she got a little unlucky on the par-4 second when her approach trickled just over the green into a tough lie. Her chip came up short and she missed a 15-foot par putt.
She had some good birdie looks that she couldn’t convert and the almost inevitable three-putt popped up the par-3 sixth hole for a bogey there. But she finished off the round in style, going after a 25-foot birdie try from the back of the green and watching it fall to get her back to even-par for the round.
In the midst of some awful spring weather, Lees snuck in an AJGA event, the AJGA Girls Junior at Disney, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. over the Easter weekend. After rounds of 78 and 77, Lees finished up strong with a 1-over 73 to finish tied for 21st.
“I had a little trouble adjusting to the greens down there,” said Lees, who fired a 32 on her home course at Philadelphia Country Club in an Inter-Ac match this spring. “But I putted really well in the last round. It was really fun to be playing against some of the best girls in the country. But I’m OK with playing a lot of golf in the cold, too.”
Lees was also happy to see the development of the Agnes Irwin program. The Owls even managed to halt Notre Dame’s eight-year unbeaten streak in the Inter-Ac League at 61 matches with a 229-231 victory over the Irish at Merion Golf Club’s West Course.
“That was really exciting for us to beat them,” Lees said. “Our freshmen came through for us that day. We had 29 girls out for the team this year. I think the most I remember before that was maybe 16.”
Agnes Irwin had four players in the field of 18 with Anne Curran carding a 48, Jordyn Hurly posting a 51 and Maura Boyle adding a 57.
And while Notre Dame saw its unbeaten streak halted, it was hardly a bad season for the Irish. They finished 7-1 in the Inter-Ac, 8-1 overall and won their ninth straight Inter-Ac title.
“The loss to Agnes Irwin was a great match,” Notre Dame coach Tom Verdi said. “A couple of bounces decided it.”
In addition to Traynor, Notre Dame had four more players in the field. Brianna Marmorstein finished just out of the top three in fourth place with a 44, Bridget Pyott and Addie Lennon were in a group of three players tied for fifth at 45 and Katie Lennon finished 18th with a 62.
In addition to Lauren Jones, Episcopal had five more players in the field, the total of six a program record at the Inter-Ac Championship. Amanda Jones finished eighth with a 46, MK Chambers and Cam Stapleton each carded a 48 to finish tied for ninth with Springside-Chestnut Hill’s Emma Schotsch, and Agnes Irwin’s Curran, Abby Baggini finished alone in 12th with a 49 and Annabelle Wondrasch was 17th with a 58.
Springside-Chestnut Hill was led by Kara Kniezewski, who carded a 45 to share fifth place with Notre Dame’s Pyott and Addie Lennon. Springside-Chestnut Hill was also represented by Ellie Murphy, who finished 14th with a 50.