Hurricane High’s Hart claims title in WV’s first all-girls golf tourney
ELIZABETH, W.Va. — No matter what happened Tuesday in the inaugural West Virginia High School Girls Invitational Golf Championship at Mingo Bottom Golf Course, it was bound to be remembered if for no other reason, as the start of a new era of female sports in the Mountain State.
But strictly in terms of on-course drama down the stretch, no one in attendance is likely to forget the duel between Hurricane’s Olivia Hart and Wheeling Park’s Dorothy Romanek with history on the line.
After a seesaw back nine of massive momentum shifts and shot swings, it was Hart who was able to rebound from a tough 17th hole with a birdie on 18 to shoot a 3-over-par 75 and pry the trophy back from Romanek’s grasp.
“Oh my God, it was tough,” Hart said. “I could not make a putt to save my life, but birdieing the 18th hole seems like a blessing almost.
“This is much different. I haven’t felt this way in forever. This is my lowest round I’ve ever posted in a tournament and I can’t stop smiling. I’m extremely happy and I’m so glad that girls golf in West Virginia is growing to what it is.”
All day, it seemed as though Hart was poised to pull away, but she struggled with the
putter and Romanek, to her credit, wouldn’t fold, using five birdies to keep pace.
The two made the turn at 3-over with Romanek three-putting the 10th to fall one shot back. Hart’s slim margin would continue until the par-3 13th as Romanek buried a 25-foot putt to register a birdie and draw even after Hart parred.
But Romanek couldn’t keep the momentum going over the next two holes, making bogey at the 14th and the 15th and falling two strokes off the pace as Hart remained steady, parring the first seven holes of the back side.
However, Romanek responded as she did all day on the par-3 16th, stuffing a tee shot to within a foot of the hole and tapping in for birdie to move back to within one shot of Hart at 4-over.
“For once I actually had the putter working and that’s really rare for me,” said Romanek, who also plays goalie for the school’s hockey team.
Romanek enjoyed an advantage in driving distance all day and took advantage off the par-4 17th, smashing a drive down the center and to within a simple pitch of the green. Hart meanwhile went left and her approach went begging as well, eventually leaving her with a tough 12-foot, downhill putt to save par.
Romanek on the other hand, holed yet another bomb, this time from around 20 feet, and, after Hart’s putt lipped out, the senior for Park suddenly had a one-shot lead heading to the par-5 18th, a hole that would seem to favor a longer player.
For Hart, it was gut-check time.
“I’m telling myself not to give up and to keep going, because anything can happen in golf, as in life,” Hart said. “I took my ability and used it to my potential.”
Both players hit solid drives and second shots, leaving each with pitches into the green. Hart was shorter and went first, hitting a beautiful shot to within a few feet to put pressure on Romanek. That extra heat was certainly felt as Romanek chunked her pitch into a bunker and then bladed her sand shot out and across the green, leaving her in need of an up-and-down and a Hart miss just to tie.
“Just, nerves got to me; I couldn’t contain it,” said Romanek, who remained in good spirits afterward. “Under pressure, chips aren’t my strongest suit.”
Romanek hit a nice pitch down the hill but missed a 10-foot par attempt, leaving it up to Hart, who had no interest in further drama as she sank her birdie putt to put a cap on a wild sprint to the finish. Romanek finished with a disappointing double bogey to shoot 5-over 77, good enough for solo possession of second place and the only other round in the 70s.
Hart, the reigning Callaway Junior Tour girls player of the year, had played in plenty of big tournaments and will do so again next week as coed regional tournaments are held Monday with tickets to the state tournament hanging in the balance.
But she admitted as she arrived Tuesday along with 51 other female golfers representing 31 schools, the weight of the moment finally sank in as she launched the first tee ball of the tournament’s history at high noon.
“I didn’t realize how big it was until I got here,” Hart said. “I was expecting much less, much less of a show. But to see so many girls out here makes me so happy. I’m sad that I’m leaving high school, but I’m so glad so many more girls will get to experience this feeling as well.”