On Monday, the best golfers in the state of Missouri will gather for their respective two-day tournaments to determine a state champion and Eldon sophomore Kassidy Hull and Osage sophomore Sydney Riley will be among them competing for the Class 1 championship in the northwest part of the state at Mizingo Lake Recreational Park Course in Maryville.

The time has come for the grand finale.

On Monday, the best golfers in the state of Missouri will gather for their respective two-day tournaments to determine a state champion and Eldon sophomore Kassidy Hull and Osage sophomore Sydney Riley will be among them competing for the Class 1 championship in the northwest part of the state at Mizingo Lake Recreational Park Course in Maryville.

The opportunity to be a part of the final show is the culmination of a dedication to the links and both Lake area golfers were willing to put forth the time and effort to perfect the craft.

ELDON’S KASSIDY HULL

Hull came into the 2018 season hungry. After a pleasant freshman campaign where she won nine medals in 9-hole matches, a tournament title and broke the school record for the lowest 9-hole and 18-hole rounds, Hull went to state and finished 22nd just seven spots away from All-State recognition. However, her tournament was cut short due to inclement weather so she never had the opportunity to find out what she was truly capable of.

“I wanted to do better last time and not getting the chance really frustrated me so I want to represent myself better this year and get to play both days hopefully,” Hull said with a smile.

Well, the golfer who has been playing the game for about eight years certainly made sure she would have the chance to do so. In the spring, she was on the links at Eldon Golf Club competing against the boys and she stayed on the links over the summer competing in different tournaments and leagues. In the fall, that translated to a 7-1 record in 9-hole match play, two regular season tournament wins, a district championship and a second place finish at sectionals. The sophomore also tied her own school records she set as a freshman.

“It is fantastic and it is good to see the hard work pay off,” Eldon coach Matt Frey said. “Kassidy drove hard all year and the other girls played great this year, which pushed her even harder. She has been driving all year to get here and I know it bothered her last year getting cut short a day so I knew her putting in the work was not going to be an issue and she really wanted to get back again.”

For Hull, the biggest difference in 2018 has been the mental side of her game. Frey said she does not try to compete against the other girls as much as she tries to compete against the golf course.

“She has always had a great game and a good swing,” the coach noted. “She wins a lot and it is nice to see when we get into a tournament that she has to compete hard. There has been some where she has not won this year, which is good because you don’t want her winning everything going into state thinking that the first day she is down that maybe she is not going to win or things like that. On the mental side of it she has grown so much this year and maturity helps with that too.”

Hull certainly does not disagree with that contention.

“I’ve learned a lot about the game and I have better insight on certain shots I feel like,” Hull said.

The sophomore has enjoyed the words of congratulations she received from the community after becoming a two-time state qualifier and now, there is one last tournament left to play.

“Im really excited and I’m hoping to improve upon my score from last year. I’m going to work har this week and it is going to be a tough round with the weather, but I’m going to try to work with it,” Hull said of the task ahead with a high temperature of 43 degrees slated for Monday.

“Just play my game and do my best. I’m just trying not to get into my head and let the nerves get to me.”

Adjustments to the conditions were a primary focus for Hull and Frey over the past week whether it was learning to play with gloves on the whole time or knowing what to do when the course is wet and the ball does not fly as far.

“Her competing in the summer in some big tournamentss I think are going to help. If we can play Kassidy’s game and play the golf course not worrying about what the scores are around her, I think she’ll do just fine,” Frey stated.

Whatever happens, Hull said she will look to continue raising the bar and set higher goals over the final half of her high school career. Her coach said it has been quite an impressive track record already, noting the difference she has already made.

“We’ve had girl golfers before that have come out and played and we’ve had a girls’ team for about six years,” Frey remarked. “Kassidy coming out and being so successsful, the other girls kind of want to watch what she does. Kassidy is always willing to go and stay out late at practice and work on extra things, and I’ve noticed some of the other girls would slowly start to stay later and want to know what we are doing and work on things.

“She has kind of paved the way for girls’ golf and helped put it on the map I think permanently. We’ve had some success with a few girls before, but Kassidy is really going to leave her mark in Eldon I think.”

OSAGE’S SYDNEY RILEY

It has been quite the journey for Riley.

The sophomore, who who has only been swinging a club for about two years, started the season in the middle of Osage’s lineup and soon found herself at the top midway through the year. She powered through districts and felt like her start at sectionals would not be enough to cut it, but found out her efforts earned her a ticket to compete with the best.

“I shot my first three holes and I was like, ‘Oh no, this is not going well, but it is ok. I am a sophomore so next year maybe,’” Riley recalled of her day at sectionals. “But then at the end of the day I made it and it was pretty cool.”

But Riley’s accomplishment was no acccident as her work in the offseason proved to make a difference. She said the biggest improvement came from her ability to drive the ball farther.

“This summer I put in a lot of work on my swing individually and made sure I did it right every day instead of just finishing practice when it was time,” the sophomore said.

“I started driving really far which made it a lot easier because I am kind of a small person so taking those big drives made it easier to get to the hole faster without as many strokes.

Osage coach L.J. Weeks certainly knew what the All-Conference and All-District golfer was capable of after seeing the work she put in and noticed her drive as well.

“The other day, the course was a tight golf course and the girls knew they had to keep the ball in the fairway if they were going to score,” the coach said of the sectional course at Nixa. “WIth some encouragement, Sydney actually kept the driver put away I think for the whole day, used a hybrid club off the tee and hit it beautifully all day. That really helped her get to where she is now, keeping the ball in play, and it has been a big improvement for her.”

Weeks, who has enjoyed taking the Osage boys to state over the past three years, is glad to see the girls back on the map as Riley became the first Indian to qualify for state since 2015 graduate Taylor Hayes accomplished the feat in 2014.

“It is good to see the hard work and dedication pay off, which is defintely the case for Sydney,” he said.

Besides Riley’s hard work and ability to drive the ball, the coach pointed out that the sophomore’s course management was another exceptional part of her game.

“There are times when I’m not there with her so she has to make her own decisions,” Weeks pointed out. “Younger players or less experienced players don’t really have situational awareness as far as what to do, how to keep the ball in play or how to get out of trouble. Now, she understands when to take risks and when to play smart.”

Riley is undoubtedly excited to have the opportunity to represent Osage, but spent the week trying to downplay any feelings of pressure.

“I’m just really mentally focusing and relaxing and not getting stressed and uptight about the competiton,” the sophomore said. “I’m just kind of looking at it as a big, fun tournament and not getting too much into the details.”

Weeks and the state qualifier spent the week getting some practice in and plan to check out the course on Sunday for a practice round before the show gets underway on Monday. He is excited to see her compete one more time.

“It is a different ballgame up there. You kind of get a taste of it at districts and sectionals and at state there are more people. It is just a different kind of world,” Weeks said. “To go see that and be a part of that is really exciting and I think she is going to have a blast.”

Riley plans to learn from this experience and hopes her trip to state will become a habit over the next two years. Weeks hopes more Indians will join her.

“I think they all know the work she pas put in and they now see what that leads to,” the coach said of his team. “It kind of sends a message that if you want to have success, this is what you have to do. It also sends a message to younger players coming up. Sydney has her name out there a little bit now and people are hearing the name Sydney Riley in golf, understanding that they (Osage golfers) can go and do the same thing.”