LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP
By her own admission, Sarah Vallee’s play during her senior season at Jackson Memorial has not been as consistent as a year ago.
But when Vallee reached the midway point of the Ocean County Tournament at a windswept Sea Oaks Country Club Thursday in 47 strokes — the same number she needed through nine last year when she won the event at Eagle Ridge in Lakewood — she wondered if it was an omen.
“It was weird. I was I was like, ‘well, let’s see if I can do what I did last year,’ ” she said.
Sure enough, Vallee — who plays on the Jaguars’ boys team — came back with a 41 on her second nine. While that was two shots higher than in 2013, her round of 88 was good enough to successfully defend the title.
Vallee made par on each of her final five holes to secure a three-shot victory over Chrissie Wojciechowski of Brick.
Finishing third with a 95 was Emily Hughes, who led Lacey to the team title with a four-player total of 400. Toms River North (404) and Southern (431) also secured invitations to next Tuesday’s Shore Conference Tournament at Pine Barrens in Jackson, while the top ten not on a team that qualified receive invitations.
For Vallee, it appeared her quest to repeat as champion was slipping away when she carded a triple-bogey on the third hole, her 12th hole of the round, and followed it up with a double-bogey at No. 4.
Undaunted, Vallee, who pared the first and second holes, began her run of pars to close out her round on No. 5, nearly rolling in a birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole.
“I was just very steady. Two on and two putts. I made it look easy,” she laughed. “I’m so happy with what I did.”
As the winds gusted to nearly 30 mph, the scores soared at Sea Oaks, with just eight players managing to break 100. Vallee, however, was able to stay patient in the difficult conditions.
“We played a match (Wednesday) and it was windy,” she said, “so I knew I would have to club up or club down one or two clubs. Really, it wasn’t that bad. On some holes it really helped.
“The thing is that I’ve played here twice before. I was not good either time. But I don’t know what happened. I just felt it today.”
When the team scores were tallied and Lacey was declared the winner, coach Nola Grenley was somewhat surprised her team had come out on top, entering the event with a 4-4 record in matches this season.
“You just never know, and my girls worked so hard,” she said. “It’s been a challenge, and last week they really started to play as a unit. And we’ve played some good team, including Rumson.”
In addition to Harris, the Lions got strong efforts from Olivia Fenton (97), who tied for sixth, Lauren Harris (100), who finished ninth, and Brianna Zuccarelli (108).