Kelly defends her title; Colts Neck team winner

At Freehold District Golf Tournament

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Meghan Kelly’s repeat victory at the Freehold Regional District Golf Tournament had more to do with her will than her swing or putting stroke.

The Howell junior, the defending champion, was sailing along on May 29 playing a solid round until the 15th hole at the Eagle Oaks Country Club in Howell when she found the water and took a quadruple bogey.

Somehow, she managed to put the nightmare behind her over the next three holes to edge Colts Neck’s Arianna Hatchett, who was playing in her group, by a stroke, 52-53.

“I didn’t give in,” said Kelly.

“I hit a few shots that I was thinking to myself ‘How can I do that?’, but I found the strength inside to finish strong.”

Kelly, who has been playing golf for only three years, admits she is still learning each time out.

“I’m a little more relaxed,” she said. “With more experience I’m more confident as I learn more about the game.

“I put myself to the test,” she added. “It was a mental thing. It [the plus-four hole] can be very difficult to overcome. I didn’t give up.”

The District championships took on added importance to Kelly – and not just because she was the defending champion. With Howell not having enough girls to field a team this year, she spent the year playing on the boys team.

That kept her out of the Monmouth County Championships and other girls tournaments.

“One of my goals was the District,” she pointed out. “I was looking forward to it.”

The defending champion was up to the challenge, and next year she will be shooting for a third straight championship.

Kelly saw improvement in her game this year, lowering her best nine-hole score to 43 at Howell Park. The tangible improvements were steady iron play and a good short game. That, with her mental toughness, helped her pull out the win at Eagle Oaks.

The Rebel, who is also one of the state’s best bowlers, knows what she has to work on for next year.

“I have to work on my drives and get more yards,” she said. “I improved my iron play when I changed to fairway woods. I changed clubs and was using 7 and 9 woods on the fairway.

“My short game I’ll work on [this summer], and I can improve my chipping,” she added. “I was hitting the ball well but not scoring well until the end of the season.”

Hatchett may have lost the individual title by a stroke to Kelly, but she was part of the championship Cougar team. With a 238 score, the Cougars topped Freehold Borough (244) by six strokes, with Marlboro (263) third.

Nicole Danzi (57), Pauline Spinelli (60) and Deanna DiChirico (68) made up the Cougar quartet with Hatchett.

Samantha Small of Freehold Borough was third overall, just two strokes in back of Kelly with her 54. Laura Porth (59) and Emily Raines (60) were the other top scorers for Freehold Borough.

The Top 10 was Kelly, Hatchett, Small, Danzi, Porth, Raines, Spinelli, Lindsey Silvestri, Marlboro (61), Alex Messenger, Marlboro (61), and Samantha Brewer, Manalapan (61).