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As captain, Osborne leads Team Missouri to Fore State Championship in annual women’s golf tournament

By: Warren Mayes

Missouri Fore State Champs 2017

Kelly Osborne has seen both sides now.

Last year as a player, Ballwin native Osborne helped Team Missouri win the annual Fore State Championship.

Now in her first time as the team captain, Osborne directed Missouri to repeat its team title in the 23rd annual Fore State Championship at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club in Joplin.

Missouri finished with 17 points, followed by Kansas and Oklahoma with 11.5 apiece and Arkansas with 8.

“I told some people half jokingly that I was retiring while on top, but in all seriousness I would love to be captain again,” said Osborne, who played at Parkway South and Missouri. “It was a huge honor for me and I had a ton of fun doing it. I enjoyed getting to make the pairings and being a ‘coach’ of sort.

“The players were all so fun to watch. They had the hard job though, they made my life pretty easy all week.”

The title is Missouri’s eighth in tournament history, ranking second behind Oklahoma’s 10 crowns. Arkansas and Kansas have three and two titles, respectively.

“I certainly missed playing but it was so fun to be there and see it from a different perspective. Anytime I’ve been a part of this event, it has been a blast and this time was no different,” Osborne said. “I would love to play in it again because match play is unique and not something we get to do all the time.

“But like I said, if I was asked to be captain again, I would jump at the opportunity. I wasn’t sure if I was more nervous as a captain or a player, especially during singles. I was hoping I had said the right things and had loaded our singles lineup correctly. I had all the confidence in the world in the team that they would take care of business but all of it was out of my hands at that point. I could only provide encouragement and support.”

Osborne knew “this team had a ton of talent” and she was confident heading into the competition.

“I really liked our chances heading into it but I knew that a lot was going to depend on pairings and matchups,” Osborne said. “We had a team meeting and I told them to go out and play their game and have some fun. I told them how talented they were and how excited I was to be their captain. I told them to not worry about letting anyone down and that no one was going to be disappointed in their play.

“I think people tend to tense up in foursomes (alternate shot) because they’re worried about where they might leave their partner. I told them to get their one ‘sorry partner’ out of the way before play started. ”

The good start was “huge for us,” Osborne said about her team’s play on the first day of competition.

“It certainly set the tone for the event. (Getting) 4.5 out of 6 possible points in four ball was outstanding. Everyone played really well,” Osborne said. “One of the matches was closed out with Kayla Eckelkamp and Chandler Gallagher making four straight birdies. Even in the matches that were lost, everyone played well. I mixed up the groups a little bit for the afternoon session of foursomes. Foursomes can be a tricky format so for us to get more than half the possible points (3.5 out of 6 possible) was great.”

Osborne noted Kayla Eckelkamp and Jess Meek were able to get Missouri a “huge” half point by halving their match on the 18th hole.

“That was really big because it gave us a 2-point lead over Arkansas going into singles instead of just a 1-point lead,” Osborne said. “I felt really good about where we were, what we had accomplished, and the state of everyone’s games. I liked the way the pairings lined up for us for singles.

“That being said, I knew we had to keep the pedal to the metal because anything can happen in singles.”

The ladies did put the pedal to the metal.

Clinging to a two-point lead after the first round of better ball and alternate shot matches, Missouri earned nine of a possible 12 points in singles play on the second day to win again.

Missouri captured five of six matches in the amateur division (ages 39 and younger) and four of six in the mid amateur division.

“Nine points in singles was unbelievable,” Osborne said. “It was nine wins, none of them came from halves. One of the other captains told me that the 17 points we put up for the event was the new record. I thought somewhere between six and seven points would take care of business for us, depending on how the other teams did. The nine points just shows how good that team was. ”

Gallagher, Logan Otter, of St. Peters, and Simpson all beat players who went unbeaten in first-round play – Gallagher 3 and 1 over Marla Souvannasing of Oklahoma, Otter 4 and 3 over Audrey Meisch of Kansas and Simpson 1-up over Tanna Richard of Arkansas.

Emily Goldenstein, of Chesterfield, won the 18th hole to finish a 2-up victory over Bailey Dunstan of Arkansas.

Also winning for Missouri were state amateur champion Jess Meek, Olivia Rose Sobaski, Dee Johnson, Stephany Powell and Diane Chancellor.

Meek, the first player out for Missouri and 2017 state champion, set the tone with her 4 and 3 victory over Raychel Nelke of Arkansas.

“Jess Meek putting up a point on the board for us right out of the gate was big. She was then able to go out and support the other players,” Osborne said. “Dee Johnson and Diane Chancellor put up big points for us in their matches against Kansas. Logan Otter was two down early and got it back to all square before the turn. She played her last 6 holes in at least 3 under to win her match against Kansas.

“Emily Goldenstein was 1 down through 14 holes, played her last 4 in 2 under par and won her match 2 up. I was just so impressed with the way everyone finished. Stephany Powell was 1 down with 2 to play and won 1 up.

Three Missouri players – Gallagher, Emily Goldenstein and Logan Otter – won their singles matches to complete a 3-0 performance in the event.

“Those three played great golf. They’re all current college golfers,” Osborne said. “Logan and Emily are good friends, rode down to the event together, and were roommates there, so that made sense to me to make them partners on the first day.

“They’re really comfortable with each other’s games. They both came back from deficits against tough opponents in singles. Chandler was really steady and her game looked really good all week. ”

Missouri’s Pam Simpson also went unbeaten, finishing 2-0-1.

“Pam Simpson was unflappable. In her and Dee Johnson’s fourball match against Arkansas, they were one down with one to play,” Osborne said. “Pam buried a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole to get a big halve for us. She and Janis Clemens were great partners in foursomes to get us another full point. Pam was down late in her singles match and came back to win.”

Osborne was enjoying the play and counting the points as well.

Then it was official. Missouri won.

“I was doing quite a bit of math to make sure we couldn’t be caught. I was out on the course and I was getting score updates via text from team members as they found out,” Osborne said. “I wanted to know the status of all matches as they were completed, not just ours. I was keeping track on paper. I double checked numbers a couple of times to make sure there wasn’t any doubt. There were a lot of high fives and hugs all around.

“I was so excited and proud. I was definitely shaking quite a bit and people noticed. There was a lot of nervous energy and excitement all day for me.”

Others finishing 3-0 in the tournament were Anna Pool, Audrey Judd and Denise Desilet of Kansas, Lexi Armon of Oklahoma and Julie Oxendine and Lisa Varney of Arkansas.

Laine Evans of Kansas went 2-0-1, halving her singles match with Melissa Eldridge of Oklahoma.

This is the second straight time that Twin Hills was played when it was Missouri’s turn to host. Kansas prevailed here in 2013.

Oklahoma is the host for next years tournament, which will be played at Shangri-La.

Don’t count out Missouri making it a three-peat, Osborne said.

“Missouri can certainly repeat next year,” Osborne said. “There’s a ton of golf talent in this state.”

For Osborne, it was a great experience.

“I had so much fun being a part of this. It’s fun to get to know people off the course as well,” Osborne said. “They’re all fantastic people and we had a lot of fun even when we weren’t playing. I watched so much good golf being played over the three rounds.

“I am very proud of each of the team members. Everyone contributed at least one point. The team gelled really well together and there was a great team chemistry.”


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