CUSTER | The poise St. Thomas More seventh-grader Alex Kandolin showed in winning her first Black Hills Conference girls golf championship may have surprised Kayla Johnson, but it probably shouldn’t have.
The St. Thomas More senior has seen it before.
Kandolin stuck a 70-yard sand wedge a foot from the hole on the par 5 first hole at Rocky Knolls Golf Course on Friday for a tap-in birdie and a win in a sudden-death playoff over Belle Fourche’s Liz Day, capping a day that saw the Cavaliers win the first girls’ conference golf title in school history.
“I was just astounded that she birdied that,” Johnson said of Kandolin’s third shot on the first hole of the playoff. “But she is like the prodigy child — we call her ‘Prodigy Child.’”
Kandolin and Day were tied after 18 holes at 82, setting up the playoff. The tournament consisted of two runs around the nine-hole track.
Both players hit perfect drives on the uphill, 400-yard par 5 before Kandolin hit her second shot to about 70 yards below the hole. Day’s second shot was closer, but it left her above the green on the right side and her third shot was a delicate chip back down the hill that left her 15 feet for birdie. When her birdie attempt didn’t find the cup, all Kandolin had to do was tap in the short birdie for the win.
“Even though it was a 1-footer, I was still so nervous,” Kandolin said. “I had a lot of confidence going into that hole because I had made a 30-footer for birdie the first time around. But I had been struggling with those types of shots – from 70 yards and in – all day. I was just thinking, ‘Don’t blade it.’”
She didn’t, staying down on the ball and placing a near-perfect shot on the green to cap a stellar day for the Cavaliers.
“I was a little nervous, too,” More head coach Brandon Kandolin said of watching his daughter in the playoff. “That was a great experience to have together. It was something special. Good for (Alex) and good for the team.”
The Cavaliers shot a team score of 370 to better Hot Springs by 10 shots for their first BHC team title.
Day had won the Pre-Region Meet at Spearfish Canyon Country Club on April 24 after tying with Kandolin and Lead-Deadwood’s Taylor Beagle at 87. She won a scorecard playoff in that one and would have won the conference title if it had gone to the scorecards as her second nine-hole score of 40 was a shot better than Kandolin’s 41. But the conference rules called for a sudden-death playoff, setting up Kandolin’s big shot.
The teams will be back in action at Spearfish Canyon Country Club on Thursday for the Region 4A Championships at 10 a.m.