FREMONT - Kate Strickland of Lincoln became the youngest champion on July 17 at Fremont Golf Club, cruising to win the 96th Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship over another young player, Lauren Thiele of Wahoo, 6-and-4.
Strickland jumped out to an early lead and never let up. The 2018 Nebraska Girls’ Golfer of the Year won the first hole, and after a birdie on the par-4 fifth hole, she was already 4-up, winning four of the first five holes.
Strickland chipped in for birdie on the par-4 seventh hole and won the par-5 eighth hole to move to 6-up.
Thiele then showed some fight, holing a 10-foot par putt on No. 10 to win her first hole and cut the lead to 5-up. Strickland regained that lead with a win on the 12th hole, but Thiele answered with a great approach shot to the par-5 13th hole for a win with a par.
However, Strickland wouldn’t let it go any further, sticking her approach shot close on No. 14 and converting an easy two-putt par to close out the match. Strickland is just the fourth junior champion in the 96-year history of the championship, joining Theresa Wanek of Omaha (1975), Anna Christenson of Lincoln (2007) and Hannah Thiele of Wahoo (2016), as the only juniors to win.
Wanek and Christenson both were 17-years-old when they won. Strickland, who turned 15 in March, is now the youngest to win this title. It’s her second NGA title, after winning the 2018 Nebraska Girls’ Amateur Championship. Strickland will be sophomore this fall at Lincoln Southwest High School, while Thiele will also be a sophomore at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo.
Lauren Thiele shot a 79 in the July 15 stroke play qualifier, good enough for a tie for sixth.
It got her a seventh seed in the match play portion of the tournament which started on July 16.
Thiele defeated seven time match play champ Susan Marchese of Omaha in the opening round 2-and-1.
Thiele advanced into the semifinals after outlasting Emily Karmazin of Omaha in 20 holes in the semifinals.
In the semifinals, the Bishop Neumann sophomore never trailed while going on to a 4-and-3 win over Doniphan’s Brandi Lemek.
Thiele’s sister Lindsey also teed it up in Fremont.
Lindsey, a senior at Bishop Neumann, shot an 80 in the stroke play qualifier and went into the tournament as the nine-seed.
She was defeated in the opening round of match play by Elkhorn’s Megan Whittaker 4-and-3.