East Alton’s Piar makes Final Four at Illinois Women’s Amateur

East Alton’s Piar makes Final Four at Illinois Women’s Amateur


Grace Curran is a former Illinois high school state champion and a current No. 1 player for her Division I college women’s golf team

Marquette Catholic’s Gracie Piar hopes both of those titles could come in her future.

Curran, a junior at Minnesota, added another Illinois championship only after fending off Piar in a match-play semifinal before winning the 87th Illinois Women’s Amateur Golf Championship last week at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein.

Piar, who committed to Cal State-Northridge in January ahead of her upcoming senior year at Marquette, had the top-seeded Curran on the verge of elimination with a two-hole lead with two holes remaining in their semi match.

“As soon as I birdied 16 to get 2-up on her,” Piar said, “I was, oh boy. It was a light bulb, it just flicked on.”

And Curran, a Class 2A state champion as a sophomore at Lincoln-Way Central in 2016, promptly turned out the light by winning three successive holes to advance in a playoff.

“She is a very good player,” Piar said of Curran. “That’s why she is going to Minnesota. It was fun playing with her. It was a really good experience.”

Piar had to play from behind after Curran won each of the first two holes. It was tied after nine holes – Piar made the turn at 36 with Curran at 38 – and Curran went 1-up with a birdie on the par 3, hole No. 12.

Piar drew even on No. 13 and forged ahead 2-up with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16. But Curran rallied with a improbably chip for birdie on 17. “It was about a 70-footer,” Piar said, “which is crazy.”

Crazy returned on 18, with Piar making par and Curran completing the comeback by sinking a 40-foot birdie putt to win the hole, draw even and force a playoff and Curran won the 19th hole at No. 10. Curran shot 72, with Piar at 71.

It was the first Illinois Women’s Golf Association championship tourney for Piar, who was entered in 2019, but fell ill after playing a practice round and had to withdraw before the tourney began.

In qualifying stroke-play last Tuesday, Curran won with a 2-under 70 to get the No. 1 seed, with Duke junior Megan Furtney at 1-under 71 scoring the rounds better than 73 on the par 72 course. Edwardsville Tigers senior Riley Lewis was fifth at 74, one stroke back of Nicole Hansen and Melanie Bailes. Piar was one of eight players tied for ninth at 76 and was the No. 13 seed.

Four of five scores at 82 advanced from a playoff to make the cut for the match-play field of 32.

In a Wednesday afternoon quarterfinal against the Tigers’ Lewis, Piar won holes 16 and 17 and halved 18 to win 1 up. Both players shot 80. “It was so fun,” Piar said. “Riley is a great person to play with, I had a lot of fun with her.”

Piar and Lewis were playing partners while winning a November four-ball tournament at Sunriver Golf Club in St. George, Utah, to earn an April trip to the USGA Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, where they were unable to survive qualifying play.

“In April, we were partners for four-ball,” Piar said. “Then a couple months later, here we are versus each other.”

Before playing Lewis, Piar shot 76 in her 1-up second-round win over Bloomingdale’s Hansen, a junior at Nebraska, on Wednesday morning after Piar got a 2-up victory over Glenview’s Grace Kryscio, sophomore at Fairfield, in Tuesday’s first round.

Piar, who posted a 72.1 average in 18-hole tourneys last season as a junior at Marquette, had 12 birdies from 72 holes at Pine Meadows – only Curran (16) and Furtney (16) had more — but posted a tourney-high eight double bogeys.

Limiting the damage on those holes is a focus for Piar, who will be among the top contenders for a Class 1A state title this fall.

“Those double bogeys, that’s what kills you,” Piar said. “I just need to work on getting it in the fairway more and hitting more greens. And if I miss the green, trying to get up and down. Which I did not do very well in the tournament. Live and learn.”

Piar left her driver in the bag for all of her junior season with Marquette, but has used the club off the tee this summer.

“I have on days, I have off days,” Piar said. “Because I swing so fast, I really have to be in sync. And if I’m not, it’s not good. I’m working on that, trying to stay in sync everyday.”

Piar will resume her busy summer — “In July, I’ll be home like two days,” she said – at The Bubba Conlee Junior Golf Tournament, where she will be joined by Edwardsville’s Lewis in the girls field on June 28-July 1 at Mirimichi Golf Course in Memphis, Tennessee.

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