St. Joseph’s Academy seniors Drew Nienhaus and Nicole Rallo ended their high school golf careers just like they began it – as state champions.
Nienhaus, of St. Albans, and Rallo, of Wentzville, helped the Angels record a record fifth consecutive state high school championship. This was the school’s first year in Class 4 as the state moved from two classes to four.
The pair join Grace Aromando, a 2019 graduate, as the only four-time state winners for the Angels.
“That was a big goal of theirs,” St. Joseph’s coach Carol Fromuth said. “They didn’t talk much about it but we are all on the same page. They deserved it and they got it. I’m so happy for the both of them.”
The girls knew what was at stake heading into the tournament.
“I can confidently say this was the most pressurized state tournament I have ever attended and the same goes for the team,” Rallo said. “Going into state I felt the pressure and I knew that it was going to be difficult, but it gave me more of a reason to prepare as much as possible before getting there.”
Nienhaus noted there were some butterflies.
“I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous heading into state because I was a senior and I knew this would be my last chance to win,” Nienhaus said.
St. Joseph’s won the team title by one stroke to slip past Notre Dame de Sion at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau. The Angels shot a 306. Rain forced the first round to be called off and as a result, the field played only 18 holes. The win was the 10th state title, also a record, for the St. Joseph’s program.
Four Angels finished in the top 10. Junior Mia Rallo led the way with a 1-over-par 74, to come in third overall. Nienhaus and junior Izzy Arro tied for fifth at 3-over 76. Nicole Rallo tied for 10th with a 7-over 80.”
“I thought I played just OK,” Nienhaus said. “I left some shots out there on the course but I did manage myself and I was happy to post a reasonable score for those conditions.”
Nienhaus’ final putt on No. 18 clinched the win for Angels. However, she didn’t know it until afterward.
“Going into the 18th hole (I) was full of emotions. I knew on the tee box that it was going to be my last high school golf hole, but I knew I needed to stay focused because I didn’t know where we all stood as a team,” Nienhaus said. “Thankfully, I had a perfect drive right down the middle of the fairway but not an easy shot into the hole. It was 180 yards to the green and I decided to go for it. I pulled out my 4 iron that was struck very well but it was just short into the rough. I chipped on with the most impossible chip and then 2-putted for par.”
That putt turned out to be a state-winning putt.
“I did not know until after I finished the hole that it was (a putt) to win the state championship,” Nienhaus said. “I was happy to finish my high school golf career on a high note and relieved that I had finished the round. I could see tons of people on the cart path cheering and screaming but I didn’t really know why. Once I walked off the green, my dad (Jim) pulled me aside and said, ‘You had to make par to win the state championship.’ I actually didn’t believe him at first, but then teammates were running toward me … they told me had just won state by a shot, and we were so happy to have won another state championship.”
Rallo wanted to post a better score in her final round for the Angels.
“My overall finish was very disappointing to me and it definitely hit an emotional spot considering it was my senior year,” Rallo said. “My round started very strong and I kept it consistent until I had my first triple on number 10. I was 7 over through 12 holes then my grind picked back up and I was able to get back to 4 over through 17 holes. Finishing tied for 10th was solely because of No. 18.
“I had lost two balls off the tee and I was put in the most pressurized situation in my entire life. My assistant coach Melanie came over to me while I was sitting 5, 195 yards from the protected pin and tells me that I need to have the lowest score on this hole. I was able to finish with an impressive 8. I don’t believe that No. 18 defined my score but it taught me that there is never a moment where I will give up no matter how upset or flustered I may get.”
Nienhaus pointed out it took everyone to win.
“Every stroke counts on the course and it was so important for me to grind those last three holes cause I didn’t know where we stood,” Nienhaus said.
The lesson is important for anyone playing golf, Rallo said.
“Winning the state title does show how important each stroke is but more importantly it tells a story about never giving up,” Rallo said. “While all of us were playing we had no idea until our final holes where the team was and what was going on. Each of us has our own story about how we all never gave up that day, but each of those stories are the reason why we won.
“If it wasn’t for all of us grinding the entire day we wouldn’t be able to do it. I believe the most important story that day was my sister Mia’s. Mia was our leader during the state championship and she was playing some of the best golf that she has played in her entire life. Mia never let up what she had going, she kept grinding and she became unstoppable which I believe is a huge reason why we won.”
The win left everyone happy. The streak is hard for the girls to fathom. It’s also good to share in the accomplishment with Armando.
“It’s actually unbelievable to even think about,” Nienhaus said. “It’s hard to believe that a team has been able to keep the streak going for five years. We are all so close and it’s a gift that we will all share for the rest of our lives.”
“Being able to say that I was a part of four consecutive state championships is an unreal feeling,” Rallo said. “We have all been working so hard for this moment and I can’t express how proud and honored I am to be apart of all of these teams and share my wins with my best friends and sister. The first person we called after the round was Grace to tell her that we did it and it brought her to tears. Grace has played a major role in my golf career at St. Joe and she was one of the main reasons I decided to go there.
“To be able to share four state championships with her and Drew is an indescribable feeling and it will go down as one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
The two girls will move on to play in college. Nienhaus will sign later this month to attend Penn State. Rallo will play at the University of Central Missouri.
“I chose Penn State because I wanted the big school aspect and that is exactly what Penn State is,” Nienhaus said. “I visited the campus in early February and fell in love with the coaches, team, and all around aspect of the school. I am totally ready for the next step and excited to get started.”
Rallo is pleased with her college choice.
“One of the main reasons why I chose UCM was because of how strong their team is and also because of coach (Chris) Port,” Rallo said. “Their team at UCM reminds me a lot of the team I am a part of at St. Joe, those girls want to win and they are willing to put in the work and effort to make that happen. Coach Port and the team’s goal of winning was the most attractive reason that I had chosen UCM. I am beyond excited to start this next chapter in my career with UCM and be a part of the team.”
The two girls believe the program will carry on and continue to do well without them.
“When Nicole and I leave, I think the program will be strong and will only get stronger,” Nienhaus said. “There will be a lot of competition next year fighting for those 5 spots on our state team. You just have to wait to see who those five are because I do know that there will be some new faces next year that will be leaders for the team.
“Don’t worry, the team next year is going to have some good golfers and I’m so excited to see what they do.”
So is Rallo.
“I have a very strong feeling that the team will do great next year,” Rallo said. “The returning players next year are my sister Mia, Izzy and Rylie (Andrews) and they all are willing to put in the work and know what they need to do to lead the team to another win.
“I have a lot of confidence in the girls and the incoming players that they will be able to win the sixth consecutive state championship due to the fact that they saw what it takes and what they need to do to make it happen again.”