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City's Thomas goes low; New Prairie wins

MICHIGAN CITY -- The number 59 has long held a special place in golf lore.

In 1977, Al Geiberger became the first professional to break 60 in a tournament, earning him the lasting nickname Mr. 59. His mark stood for 39 years, until Jim Furyk went one shot better.

Michigan City's Lia Thomas fashioned a 58 of her own in Monday's La Porte's County Invitational. OK, so it came on the par-60 Municipal Executive Course, but there was still something eye-catching about the digits when Wolves coach Drew White penned them on the score sheet.

"Last year, I shot 69 here, so it was a big change," Thomas said. "My goal was to break 65, be somewhere down in the low 60s, so I'm pretty happy."

The Wolves senior finished with a flourish, holing out for an eagle two on the 18th from roughly 150 yards.

"I've been hitting the ball great," Thomas said. "Physically, I think I'm fine, it's all mental for me. I've just got to stay in it. I struggled with my short game the beginning of the summer, but it's getting a lot better. My chipping has improved a lot. I wasn't getting up and down and I got up and down quite a few times today. I switched putters. I took my dad's Scotty Cameron. He got a new one. My long game has always been my strength and my short game is starting to come together."

Lia Thomas

White simply described the two-under-par round as 'remarkable,' overshadowing a 67 by City junior Taylor Skibinski, which was good for a distant second.

"I could've been a lot better," Skibinski said. "I'm hitting my irons good. It was just the little things, a couple putts that were stupid. I started off (the summer) with a rough patch, halfway through, I finally started playing a little better."

Skibinski had surgery in February to remove scar tissue from her left ankle that was believed to have come from an ankle sprain in soccer, which she has since given up to lighten her fall sports load.

"Last year, playing this course, my ankles would be dead. They feel fine now," Skibinski said. "Hopefully that will impact my game a little more. It's my junior year, I should probably just focus on one sport and golf is probably where I'll be going."

Despite the one-two finish, the Wolves (342) finished third behind New Prairie (328) and La Porte (334) for the team title. City played without returning varsity players Caroline Kearney, who came down with a balky back Monday morning, and Jayda Peters. In their stead, Krystani Quinn shot 108 and Violet Murphy 109.

"Our two freshmen didn't think they would play much this season and they both filled in," White said. "Particularly Krystani, I'm proud of her, coming out and shooting 108. You have Lia and you have Taylor. We need to find a third and fourth score obviously. I'm fairly confident we're going to get our varsity intact by the time this is all said and done, be where we need to be when we need to be there."

New Prairie, with four starters back, won the tournament for the first time in 'maybe 25 years,' coach Bruce Watson estimated.

"It's been a long time," Watson said. "We can shoot a lot better. We've got a lot of work to do, but we've got a program in place now and that helps. We've got 13 kids here."

Sisters Jordan and Jaiden Winters finished third and fourth, respectively, with 75 and 78. Zoie Martinez followed with an 87, one shot better than freshman Jenna Baumann.

"Golf is focus," Watson said. "It's a mental game, not a physical game. You've just got to work, work, work your mind all the time."

La Porte got its first glimpse at a promising future with freshmen Molly Menne (fifth, 79) and Kamryn Kubik (89).

"They have a good solid background," LP coach Libbie Gilliland said. "They're well known in Junior golf. They know golf well. They know golf etiquette. They know their clubs. A lot of them have played in Junior leagues around the area. We have two seniors, five juniors, a handful of sophomores and five freshmen. This and next year, I think we're going to surprise some people."

The balanced Slicers picked up an 82 from Jayme Noll, an 84 from Gabby Hull and an 89 from Ella Schable.

"The two freshmen will be a big help to the team, so we should have a pretty strong team," Schable said.

Short-handed Marquette had just three players, led by Mary Kate Bobillo (91), though coach Bill Luegers hopes they'll pick up a few more girls to round out a lineup.

"It's disappointing not to have enough kids for a team score," said Luegers, who graduated four seniors in addition to regional qualifier Daniela Bellido returning to Spain. "We'll pick up at least one more later this week; a senior who didn't play last year who said she was willing to come out and give it a try. Mary Kate said there are two others on the fence. We'll have a team score after this."

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