In her third trip to the state tournament, Perham's Mallory Belka won the Class AA girls golf championship in decisive fashion Wednesday, June 16, at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan, becoming the first Yellowjacket to win a state girls golf title.
Belka went into the final round with a two-stroke lead after shooting a 73 on the first day of competition. She shot a final-round 75, winning the championship by nine strokes. Lake City's Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen placed second with a two-day total of 157, and Providence Academy's Grace Petzold rounded out the top three with a final score of 158.
With a two-stroke lead going into the final round, Belka said she had some nerves at first but they did quiet down.
"I was pretty nervous going into the final round," she said. "My miss is usually to the right, so when I pulled my opening tee shot left into the water I was a little surprised, but after that hole I felt better. In golf, you can't control what the other players are doing, you just need to focus on each shot."
Perham head coach Cory Solberg said it was his greatest coaching performance. His comment was made tongue-in-cheek as Belka had the tournament under control a week after capturing the section title in Bemidji. Solberg praised his top golfer for her composure and execution on the course.
Belka opened with a double-bogey 7 on the first hole of the day but righted the ship quickly parring seven of eight holes to go out at +3. She closed with three birdies on the back nine to finish at +3 75.
Solberg said her round was "very interesting, from the first swing of the day to the last putt of the day.
"She started with a two-shot lead and her first swing of the day goes left into the pond and she makes 7, so there went the lead," he said. "But she really showed maturity and mental toughness because she parred the next six holes in a row."
According to Solberg, on the back nine Belka played really great golf, making three birdies. He noted that her birdie on hole 15 was "textbook golf."
"Hole 15 is a short par 3, and she took it to about 12 feet and then rolled in the putt," Solberg said. "So at that point I was feeling really good about her score because the next hole was a par 5." Belka's second shot on that hole went into the woods, but they were able to find it and Belka ended up with a double bogey before getting a par on hole 17 and a birdie on hole 18 to finish the round.
"Everyone is just so proud of Mallory," Solberg said. "She practices all the time and puts in so much time and effort. And if you drove past Perham Lakeside today (the day after winning the championship), you would see her practicing, trying to make herself better."
Her two-day total 73-75 (148) was nine shots better than runner-up Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen of Lake City 75-82 (157).
"It feels really good winning the tournament," Belka said. "There are a lot of really good players at the state meet and to win it just feels awesome."
Belka joins Taylor Cavanagh as a Yellowjacket state golf champ. Cavanagh won the boys championship in 2006.
Lake City ran away with the team title defeating Providence Academy by 44 strokes.
Robert Williams contributed to this report.