Women's Golf

Lechner wins Franklin County title on home course

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Female members of Hickory Hills Golf Club in Grove City should be thrilled that their course will play host to the 91st annual Franklin County Women's Golf Tournament next summer.

Julie Lechner became the second consecutive championship flight winner to earn the title on her home course when she defeated Kasey Petty 2 and 1 on July 12 in the final of the match-play event at Scioto Reserve County Club.

"I am more familiar with the course, but the setup was very challenging," said Lechner, a 19-year-old Powell resident who will be a junior on the Ohio University team. "It happened to go my way this week. It just worked out."

Lechner, an Olentangy Liberty High School graduate, has competed against Petty throughout summer tournaments.

"I knew I'd have to play well (in the final) because Kasey is a great competitor," Lechner said. "I couldn't pull away from her and she made an awesome (par) save (at No. 13) when I thought I had a chance to add some cushion."

Petty, a member at The Links at Groveport, also was runner-up last season when she fell to Jamie Linnenbom 6 and 4 at Little Turtle. Linnenbom did not compete this season because she is nearly ready for childbirth.

"Julie is a great player, just really solid," said Petty, a 19-year-old Groveport resident who will be a sophomore on the University of Findlay team. "I knew she was going to make some shots and I had to play a great round in order to beat her. I competed, but I really didn't have a great round."

The event began with qualifying July 8. Heavy rains forced postponement July 10, so competitors had to complete two rounds July 11.

Petty went 1-up in the final on No. 6, but Lechner evened it up with a par on No. 8.

Lechner missed a chance to take the lead when her birdie putt at No. 10 slid under the hole. However, her tee shot on the par-3 No. 11 was within 2 feet to set up a birdie that gave her the lead, as Petty's birdie putt was strong by 2 feet.

Lechner then made the putt of the match on the par-4 No. 12, draining a 27-footer for birdie and a two-hole lead.

"As quickly as you can get up in match play, you can get down," Lechner said. "I wanted to remain focused and continue to concentrate on what I wanted to do."

It looked like Lechner's momentum pressured Petty, who pushed her tee shot right and out of bounds on the par-5 No. 13. But she was able to chip to within 4 feet and make her putt to save par, and Lechner missed an 11-foot birdie attempt.

"I got a little nervous there, but I was able to steady myself and pull (off) a par," Petty said. "I was just real happy she didn't make that putt like she had done all day."

Petty then pushed her drive on No. 14 wide right and nearly out of bounds. She was able to bogey, and Lechner had a rare bogey on the par-4 hole as well.

Lechner took a three-hole lead on the par-4 No. 15, as Petty's drive was wide right for the third consecutive hole and landed in the water hazard. She dropped and took bogey.

"It was more my alignment than my swing because they weren't really slices," Petty said of her wayward drives. "I nearly backed off and realigned on No. 14, but I decided not to and unfortunately it was the wrong decision. I was just too close to my ball."

Petty got the hole back on the par-3 No. 16, as Lechner's par putt was inches low. Both made pars on the par-5 No. 17.

Lechner, who will join her mother, Anne, as a volunteer at the Solheim Cup from Aug. 13-18 in Parker, Colo., enjoys the match-play format.

"I competed in the Ohio Amateur (June 25-27) in Hudson and I think the format and the success I had there helped this week," she said. "I was a semifinalist there and we got a lot of rounds in.

"I'm excited about the Solheim Cup and I would love to be involved in the golf industry the rest of my life. Golf has been such a big part of my life."

Anne Lechner was a semifinalist in the third flight.

Petty already is looking forward to next year.

"The third time's the charm," said Petty, who will compete in the Women's Collegiate Team Championship on July 23-25 at Wedgewood. "My family members didn't want to come (to the final) because they thought they could be a jinx. I don't know if I can talk them into coming to watch me again next year."

•OTHER FLIGHTS -- Debbie McNichols, a Columbus resident and first-year Scioto Reserve member, beat Sheryl McKinney 4 and 2 to win the first flight.

McNichols, 55, has won several flights, but never the championship flight.

"It was special to win it this year because it's my first year as a member here," she said. "I was consistent and steady, which is surprising because I had the most horrendous qualifying round after losing the club championship to Julie Lechner. I'm just real satisfied with the way I played against a good opponent."

Renee Dutton, a member at Heritage, defeated Kathy Koehl 4 and 3 to win the second flight. Vicki Dutcher, a member at Little Turtle, won the third flight via forfeit when Janet Boggs could not play because of a prior obligation.

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