No golfer in the Class A has been more consistently excellent in the last four seasons than Hillsboro's Hannah Luckett.
The only year Luckett didn't win the South Central Conference Meet was as a freshman, when she finished second. And heading into today's first round of the Class A Girls State Golf Tournament at Red Tail Run Golf Club, Luckett will be playing in her fourth state tournament. After placing 25th as a freshman, Luckett has finished fifth the last two seasons.
Hillsboro coach Fuzzy Jacobs said he doesn't see Luckett dropping out of the top five this year.
"If she's on her game, she'll be among the top two or three," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said Luckett has struggled at times this year with a swing change she made over the summer, and had a spurt of what Jacobs called, "bogey-itus" at the end of her sectional round on Tuesday, when she shot an 82. But Jacobs said Red Tail Run plays to Luckett's strengths.
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"If it gets windy at all, that will be a big advantage for her," Jacobs said. "She hits low and long, and Red Tail Run is a pretty wide-open, links-style course. The key for her will be greens in regulation. If she can get 13 or 14, she'll be in the running. Her putting has been extraordinary."
Luckett and the rest of the field have a new contender to deal with his year in Normal U-High's Katherine Hepler. A Lincoln resident, Hepler wasn't eligible because of her transfer as a freshman, and had a falling-out with her coach as a sophomore that led to her not playing sectionals as a sophomore and not playing at all as a junior. But Hepler is out for the team this year and dominating. She shot only one round over par all year, set a women's course record at Shewami Country Club in Watseka with a 63 to win regionals, then set a women's course record at Oak Springs Golf Club in St. Anne with a 68 to win sectionals.
The list doesn't end there in what is a particularly strong 1A field this year. Pinckneyville's Heather McDaniel, Somonauk's Jessica Schultz, Harrisburg's Jessa Handwerk, Nashville's Shawn Rennegarbe and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Emily Spangler were all top-10 finishers in Class A last year. Ridgewood sophomore Sabrina Bonanno was second in Class AA last year.
Team-wise, defending champion Champaign St. Thomas More returns four of its top six but will be pushed by a Massac County team that took second a year ago and returns all six of its top players. And Hepler-led Normal U-High was a three-time state champion in AA before dropping a class this year.