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Weather denies Luebbe final varsity round

October 10, 2018

Aspen Luebbe stepped off the Norfolk Country Club on Monday a little slower than normal.

Despite the rain and chilly temperatures, she lingered a little longer on the 18th green taking in the sights and sounds of the state tournament with the understanding this could be it.

Due to the rain, Monday had the potential to be the final varsity round of her Columbus High golf career.

That potential became a reality Tuesday morning when the Nebraska School Activities Association announced shortly after 8 a.m. that Norfolk Class A tournament organizers canceled play for the day. With more rain in the forecast, the course was simply too saturated with water to endure another day of 75 girls plus their family and friends moving around the grounds.

The decision cut short one of the most decorated Discoverer golf careers in program history.

Luebbe was left in fourth place, five shots back of two players tied with a 76. She collected a second straight fourth-place medal to go with a 10th-place piece of hardware two years ago.

Recognition though, wasn’t where her mind first wandered when she put her putter in the bag one last time.

She thought about all the girls she may never see again, all the courses she may never play again and what the hours of work had meant.

“It is kind of strange to think it’s over, in a way,” Luebbe said Tuesday afternoon. “Sure I’ll go out and continue to play, but no more high school golf is a very weird feeling.

“I have mixed feelings on it because it is senior year. Not getting to do the traditional two days of state was kind of different. But the weather was rough and the conditions were tough.”

Luebbe trailed Jalea Culliver of Omaha Marian and Kaitlyn Hanna of Omaha Westside who turned in identical scores of plus-4 -- carding 76.

Kate Strickland of Lincoln Southwest was one shot behind. Then stood Luebbe, five back and two clear of fifth place.

“I would have had to make up a lot of ground today, but knowing I could have improved from yesterday’s score to today was probably the missing piece of the puzzle,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating, but something’s left undone.”

Making up ground meant eliminating two double bogeys on the front nine and sinking a few more putts on the back.

That may have saved a few strokes, but Luebbe realized those in front of her would also have to give a few shots away. A second straight day in less than ideal conditions might have helped in that regard.

“There’s always a possibility for anything to happen out on the golf course. You could just go out there and play amazing, or you could go out there and hurt yourself a little bit,” she said. “But with the weather, no matter how good or bad it is, everybody had to play through it. With that mindset, something could happen.”

Luebbe had played with Strickland and Culliver before and understood the challenge it would be to overtake those talented players, but she said she was ready to take an internal approach and control what she could.

Though Mother Nature robbed her of that opportunity, the whole season, start to finish, has been some of the most enjoyable times of her life.

“My senior year has been my highlight year. I’ll remember some of my better rounds this year – shooting a 72 at the Lincoln Pius X Invite and also shooting 1-under at the Grand Island Invite and just getting to play my home course a lot,” Luebbe said. “I had the privilege of playing at home a lot more than other Columbus players in the past.”

It’s a long ways from what she expected when she took her first varsity tee shot three years ago.

Coming up just short of state drove her to put in more time. Her drive was rewarded with a sophomore trip to state where she received a medal, followed by two more each of the last two seasons.

From the gratifying feeling of just making it to establishing herself as one of the best in the state, Luebbe’s never taken anything for granted.

“I’m very satisfied. I’d say I’ve had a pretty good career when I look back on it. One more round of golf isn’t going to make or break it,” she said. “I’m very satisfied with how everything happened, and everything happened for a reason. It’s been a pretty good four years.”

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at nate.tenopir@lee.net.

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