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All-State BLHS golfer Kristi O’Brien was recently chosen as News-Sentinel 2007 Prep Sports Golfer of the Year for the 2nd year in a row. She will share the award this year with close friend Kaylee Imel of Norwell. But 1st, lets look at her 2006 summer leading up to her junior year.
AGE 16 / Junior year
In summer 2006, Kristi continued to show great improvement under pro Bob Kruse’s direction. After teaming with Jordan Essman to win the State Jr. 2-man Best Ball tournament in a 3-way playoff, she easily had her best summer ever. Kristi won all 5 state tour events that she entered. Included in those was her most impressive round to date. In an absolute miserable day at the Players Club in Muncie, she was even par after 15 holes played in a steady, and sometimes driving rain. She went through 9 golf gloves, including 7 old ones that had long since seen their day, stuffed in the bottom of her bag. Her mom had the foresight not to throw them out, in case there would someday be a tropical rain-day like this. No lightning, and play goes on! With an absolute down pour in the last 5 holes, Kristi couldn’t even hold the club without it slipping in her hands. There was so much standing water in the fairways that each swing looked like a golf swing from a stream! She bogeyed the final 3, but still shot 75 for the win.
Kristi also fired 75 in the Mountain Dew Tour Championship at Attica. Her 2nd place finish there and those 5 wins earned her the Junior Tour Points Title and entry into the elite Masters Tour for ’07. She then opened her Junior high school year with 36, which set the tone for a great season. She won but the rain shortened Huntington Invitational at Lafontaine with 2 fabulous chips to finish birdie-par for a 38. Then at Colonial Oaks she played 2 under par over the final 5 holes to capture the Northrop Invitational again. Tied with Lina Pasquali (E. Noble) and Jessica Scortino (Homestead), 2 solid seniors, Kristi shocked everyone including herself by holing out a 20yd. chip for Eagle on their 17th hole! She won by 2 over Jessica.
In September, she won her 1st SAC Conference Tournament at Foster Park by shooting 78 to tie her with Lauren Fink (Concordia) after 18 holes. In the playoff on #1, Kristi crushed her drive 258 yds. She then stuck her iron shot 6 foot away, and sunk her birdie putt for her 3rd win of the season.
Though she lost her chance to repeat as Sectional Championship the next week after leading for the 1st 15 holes, Bishop Luers advanced to Regional for the 1st time in 2 years with a 2nd place finish. Scortino edged Kristi by 1, firing 76 for the individual title at Timber Ridge despite Kristi’s birdie on #18.
Golf is a funny, and often fickle game. Kristi was soooooo focused on getting to the State Finals this year! But nobody could have predicted what was going to happen at the 2006 Cobblestone Regional that day in Kendalville. She was paired with former state champion, Emily Johnson(Warsaw), and the hottest girl in the state, Lina Pasquali. I loved the pairing! I knew she’d have to shoot low just to keep up with those two. Now Kristi is usually a quiet girl that always gets a little nervous before any tournament, especially before Sectional and Regional. But as she crawled into bed the night before, she shocked me with her level of resolve and confidence. She said “DAD, LINA HAS REALLY BEEN ON FIRE LATELY. I’M GONNA PUT THAT FIRE OUT TOMORROW !” You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!
The next day at Cobblestone, she was still naturally a little nervous. But after 6 holes she was only 1 over par. In fact, all 3 girls were tied at +1. On hole #7, Kristi hit 2 fabulous shots to get home in 2 on that par 5. She then sunk the 8-foot eagle putt! Nine pars in a row later, followed by birdies on #17 and #18 sealed the deal. Kristi played the last 12 holes in 4 under par! She captured her 1st Regional Championship over the best 2 golfers around who both shot even par 72, got her well-earned trip to the State Finals, earned enough points to make the All-State team, and fired her first 69 to boot! All in one day. She said, “I must have said about a hundred lil’ prayers out there!” She and her team also shared a group hug with their emotional coach, Mr. Kalver. A.J. was so happy for Kristi, who won her 4th tournament — and the biggest one yet — in this high school season. Plus, the icing on the cake was this: Her performance elevated her to win the “News Sentinel Prep Sports Golfer of the Year” award, sharing the award with friendly rival, senior Lina Pasquali.
Age17 / Senior year
In the summer of 2007, Kristi had a very exciting summer starting in June.She was Runner-up in the Indiana State Junior Match Play Tournament (1st flight). Ironically, all 4 matches came to the final hole. She defeated close friend Jordan Essman (1-up sudden death), Lauren Vogt (2-up), and Jessica Collins (1-up), before losing to Brittney Kelly (1-up) despite shooting 74 in the finale at Bridgewater West in Auburn. Then in early July, Kristi became the 2007 Indiana 17-year old Champion by winning the 36 hole Age Group championship for the 1st time (17-year old division). She parred the 1st play off hole to win over Jessica Collins again. She also was Runner-up to Kaylee Imel in the 1st annual FWCC High School Girls Golf Invitational in a playoff. Both shot 78. Her lowest summer round was even par 72 at tough Rock Hollow in the Masters Tour Championship, the lowest round of the tourney. But her finest summer achievement was qualifying for the Championship Flight of the Indiana Women’s State Am at Battleground in Lafayette. She shot 78-74-75 on this long 6002 yard course to finish in 13th place overall out of 88 of the finest women Amateurs, and best College and High School players in the state. Kristi was the top finisher of High School kids in this biggest and most coveted Amateur Title of the year in Indiana!
In her final senior high school season, Kristi and her teammates enjoyed a season that they could only dream of in earlier years: An 11-1 overall team record, 2 team Runner-up finishes (including Sectionals to advance to Regional), and 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finishes in other big Tourneys. Best of all, we knocked off SAC favorite Northrop at Donald Ross to capture our BLHS first SAC Title since 1993! Kristi’s own hi-lites are a 9-hole 37.0 avg. and 18-hole average of 74.9. Her lowest 9-hole score was 31 at McMillen after a bogey-bogey start! Her lowest 18 score was a 68 at Noble Hawk when she won the Snider Invitational. All of these were school records many times over. Kristi also was the Northrop Invitational winner for the 3rd year in a row, firing a 1 over par 73 at Colonial Oaks. She won her 2nd straight SAC Conference Tourney, also at Colonial Oaks with 76. And last, but not least, a 74 to win Sectional by 1 over her buddy, Kaylee Imel at Timber Ridge. In a maked contrast to 2006 when she would sometimes lose a lead down the stretch, this year she’d finish strong. In fact, in all 4 of these wins, she played under par down the stretch, coming from behind in most. Also, when she heard in the Homestead Tourney at Brookwood that she would have to play 3 under par in the final 5 holes to tie Ashley Kees, she set her goal and almost did! She played 2 under, lipping out a 15-foot eagle putt on #18 to shoot 74. Then at Regional, 6 over par after 12 holes and in serious danger of not qualifying for state in her senior season, she played even par over the last 6 holes, shooting 76. Again at the IHSAA state finals, she came back twice on day one. After the last bump, a triple bogey on #14, she kept her composure and parred the final 4 holes to salvage another 76 which qualified for State’s final day. Even in the final day’s 81, she never gave up after a 6 over start in the 1st 6 holes. Kristi was disappointed with her 21st finish at state. But soon would come fantastic news. Kristi became the 1st athlete ever at Luers to win the Prep Sports Player of the Year Award twice!
Kris improved every year. She was unbelievably consistent in this senior season. She had only one match 9-hole score that was above 39. She had only one 18-hole score above 76! She was ALL-SAC all 4 years. Plus All-Area the past 3 years. She notched 2 SAC Conference wins, 2 Sectional titles and 1 Regional in her career. In the 25 high school tournaments she has played in during the past 3 years, she won 11 times! That’s a remarkable 44% winning percentage with 35-65 kids in each tourney.
Kristi and Kaylee Imel hung around alot together this past summer at tournaments around the state. In fact, they teamed up to win the 2007 IGA State 2-girl Best Ball tournament in June, shooting 2 under par. Kaylee and Kristi were the only 2 girls in N.E. Indiana to make the All State Golf team! They sat together at that All-State banquet in Indy and now they are honored together as the 2007 recipients for the Golfer of the Year award! Kristi will be playing college golf on scholarship somewhere in Indiana next year. I’m sure she’ll miss her friendly golf rival alot. But I’ll bet she’ll miss her good friend Kaylee, even more!
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