Stevenson graduate Nikki Marquardt carded an 84 in stroke play and did not qualify for the championship flight of the Illinois Women’s Amateur.
So she went out and did the next best thing, winning three consecutive rounds of match play to emerge as champion of the first flight at Crestwicke Country Club on June 13 in Bloomington.
This was only the second time she had experienced match play in a tournament.
“It’s a totally different format and I just [focused] on playing my game,” she said.
These are exciting times for Marquardt, who plans to play college golf at Tulsa this fall. Always driven to excel, she is discovering that you can’t force things to happen on the golf course.
“I’ve learned some lessons the hard way,” she said. “You care so much that sometimes you want it too badly. I’m starting to let things happen.”
Jon Reese, Marquardt’s swing coach at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein, said her game is in a good place.
“She’s starting to understand that pressure is self-imposed,” he said. “That’s a huge lesson. As she’s started to relax, her ball striking went up and her scores went down.”
Stephanie Miller has been impressed by Marquardt. Miller, a two-time state champion at Stevenson, recently completed her freshman season at Illinois. Like Marquardt, she takes lessons from Reese so they see each other frequently during the summer. Miller even caddied for Marquardt at a recent tournament.
“After not seeing her play for a year, I can see a big change,” Miller said. “She’s had a breakthrough and is developing a very good game.”
Marquardt said she learned a great deal by playing with Miller for three years in high school. As a senior, Marquardt achieved one of her goals by qualifying for the state tournament. She shot a two-round 157 and finished in an eight-way tie for 20th.
“I really looked up to her and she’s really helped me,” Marquardt said. “We had a good, friendly competition. That brought our games up day in and day out.”
Marquardt said she’s fortunate to take lessons from Reese, who has helped every aspect of her game.
“I call him after tournaments and we’ll talk through course management and the mental side of the game,” she said.
Another catalyst for her improvement is a refined short game. That has been a point of emphasis for this summer to help prepare for the rigors of college golf.
“[Reese] always says that tournament golf is won within seven feet,” she said. “I’ve put in a lot of work on my short game, and I’ve [improved] my putting and am able to start getting up and down more.”
Reese expects Marquardt will continue to develop due to her drive to get better.
“She’s an incessant questioner,” he said. “She wants to know everything about the game of golf. She has a tremendous work ethic and a wonderful, long and fluid golf swing.”