ND’s Ali Lucas wins state golf title

ALEXANDRIA – For the past six months, Notre Dame’s Ali Lucas has finished off her practice rounds at Bayou Bend by sinking 25 three-foot putts in a row before walking off the course.

Fittingly enough, it was a 3-foot putt that stood between her and her second straight Division II state golf championship title Tuesday at the Alexandria Golf and Country Club in Woodworth.

Lucas was tied with St. Louis April Anderson when Anderson’s par putt slipped just past the hole on the 18th green yesterday, leaving the 17-year-old ND junior with having to make an all-too-familiar putt for the victory.

She calmly stepped up and drained the 3-footer, giving her a two-day total of 154 and making her Notre Dame’s first repeat state golf champion in school history.

“Some of the 3-footers are more stressful than the long putts, especially that one,” said Lucas after her championship round. “That was probably the most stressful putt I’ve ever had to make in my life.

“All I could think about when I was putting my last putt was just to putt it like I putt at Bayou Bend. I told myself ‘putt it like you putt 25 in a row every day, that is why you putt it.’ I just kept telling myself, ‘this is why you practice this and you know you can make it’.”

Although Lucas will undoubtedly never forget her winning putt, she will also remember her second shot on 18 that put her in position for the victory.

After driving her first shot behind a tree just left of the fairway, Anderson stuck her second shot 11 feet from the cup.

Lucas, meanwhile, sitting about 125 yards out after her first shot, attempted to punch an eight-iron up to the green. But her shot ended up heading straight toward another tree just off the putting surface.

“At that point, I kind of just accepted defeat because my opponent was about 11 feet from the pin for birdie,” said Lucas.

Miraculously, Lucas’ shot to the green, which appeared headed for disaster, hit a tree limb, ricocheted off a branch and landed on the green.

“I don’t know, there must have been an angel in that tree,” said Lucas. “At that point, I was just very excited to be on the green.”

Lucas finished the final day of the tournament hitting 11 out of 14 fairways and eight out of 18 greens. That was the good news. The bad news was she putted 37 times compared to her first day total of 35.

Lucas’ victory was even sweeter due to the fact that she had given up basketball in 2008, a sport in which she earned All-District honors, to get more practice time in on the course.

“This really feels amazing,” said Lucas. “I quit basketball after last season and that was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made. But I feel like it paid off for something. I feel like I did what I had to do and I ended up succeeding. I would have been very disappointed if I would have quit basketball and not won today just because I had six extra months to work on my game. I just feel so good, I don’t know how to explain it.”

Lucas plans to take next week off before beginning a busy slate that includes a seven-tournament stretch in June before the college recruiting process that begins in July.

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