KEARNEY – The 97th Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship was held at the Kearney Country Club last week.

Number one seed and defending champion Lauren Thiele of Wahoo was defeated in the in the tournament semifinals by Hannah Hunke of Snyder.

Hunke built an early lead against the defending champ, but Thiele chipped away and found herself down by just one after eight holes.

Back-to-back birdies on holes nine and 10 pushed Hunke’s advantage to three.

Thiele came back to win holes 11 and 13, both Par 4’s, but Hunke won hole 15 and then rolled in another birdie on hole 16 to close out the match 3-and-2.

In the other semifinal, five-time NGA champion Haley Thiele squared off against Omaha’s Katie Ruge.

Ruge got off to a quick start against Thiele and won the first two holes and led 3-up through nine holes.

The two players then tied the next six holes, including two birdies on hole 13. Ruge hit her approach shot to about six feet, and Thiele answered by hitting the flagstick for a conceded birdie. Ruge dropped her putt to tie the hole.

Thiele continued to battle though, nearly acing the Par-3 16th hole. She rolled in her birdie putt to stay alive. After finding trouble off the tee on hole 17, Thiele nearly holed her fourth shot from about 100 yards, but Ruge played the hole perfectly. She hit her approach shot hole-high and cozied her putt up close and Thiele conceded the match after missing her putt for par, giving Ruge the 3-and-1 win.

Ruge ended up winning the match play championship, becoming the second youngest player to ever do so.

Ruge will be a junior at Millard North High School this fall and still hasn’t turned 17.

Ruge is also the fifth junior golfer to win the title, joining Strickland, Wahoo’s Hannah Thiele (2015), Lincoln’s Anna Christenson (2007) and Omaha’s Theresa Wanek (1975).

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