Indian Hills Country Club, Mission Hills, KS, July 25, 2018 –
Emma Whitaker of Wichita, Kansas captured The Prairie Invitational title in a two-hole playoff with defending champion Kristen Samp of Lawrence, Kansas. This is the first appearance in The Prairie Invitational for Whitaker, who will be a sophomore at Oklahoma State University in the fall.
Competitors in The Prairie Invitational enjoyed great weather throughout the three days, but the course did not yield low scores easily. An A.W. Tillinghast gem, the set up at Indian Hills proved challenging for players in both divisions. The tree lined fairways and undulating greens proved to be a great test of golf, yielding a field-best single round score of 71 (+1 by Reagan Zibilski in round 1) and a winning three-round total of +14.
The leader board was in a constant state of change throughout the day on Wednesday with Whitaker, Samp, Jess Meek (Columbia, MO), and Whitney Pyle (assistant professional at Ironhorse GC) all holding the lead at one point. Chloe Kraus (Olathe, KS), Reagan Zibilksi (Nixa, MO), Ellen Port (St. Louis, MO), and Kirsten Baete (Beatrice, NE) all were within striking distance throughout the day.
Jess Meek had a very solid round going until back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 left her one shot out of the lead at the end of the day. Whitney Pyle also bogeyed 17 to slip into a tie for third with Meek. Chloe Kraus made a late charge with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15, but a costly double bogey on 12 proved too much to overcome. Reagan Zibilski had a very strong performance with a 74 on Wednesday after a difficult 81 in the second round. Ellen Port had a very steady performance all three rounds. Kraus, Zibilski, and Port all tied for 5th place at +16
Kristen Samp charged into the lead coming into the final hole with a birdie on the long and difficult #17. Her lead was erased after a bogey on the par-5 18th, falling into a tie with Whitaker who parred the final five holes. Both players tied the first playoff hole. Samp’s drive on #2 found the left trees, while Whitaker hit a tremendous shot into the fairway. Samp hit a great recovery shot, but was unable to find the green in regulation after being left with a long approach. Whitaker hit the green in regulation. Samp was unable to get up and down from the greenside bunker, and Whitaker ended the playoff with a two-putt. Samp finished the event as the Open Division Runner-Up and claimed the Midwest Section PGA Women’s Championship trophy.
Along with her title in The Prairie Invitational, Whitaker also captured the Kansas Women’s Amateur title. This is her first win in the Kansas Women’s Amateur as well. Reagan Zibilski earned the Open Division Low Junior title, while Julia Misemer claimed the trophy for Kansas Low Junior.
The Prairie Invitational will next be contested at The National Golf Club of Kansas City in Parkville, Missouri in July of 2019.