CEDAR RAPIDS — Kaitlin Hotchkiss recalled early visits to the golf course.
She accompanied her grandfather, Craig, who introduced her to the sport. Those moments served as seeds that helped golf blossom into her favorite activity.
“My grandpa always played golf,” said Hotchkiss, who will be a senior at Cedar Rapids Xavier this fall. “He always brought us out here when I was little and we were always hitting away. After a while, I got on the golf team my freshman year and then found a love for it.”
Hotchkiss parlayed her passion into a come-from-behind victory Thursday, winning the Pribyl Junior Golf Classic girls’ open title. She fired 76 in the third and final round at Elmcrest Country Club and finished with a 253 total.
Linn-Mar senior Dillon Burr claimed the boys’ open division, while former Central City prep Nick Reid won a playoff for the special boys’ senior crown.
Hotchkiss eclipsed a 10-stroke deficit to start the day and won by a comfortable five shots. In a role reversal, the elder Hotchkiss was among those following his granddaughter around the course as she posted the lowest round of the group.
“I love it,” Hotchkiss said. “I love him out here, supporting me and everything.”
Hotchkiss overcame a slow start to the tournament, opening with 95 in the first round at Cedar Rapids Country Club. She trimmed her second round score at Hunters Ridge to 82 and saved her best for last.
Something clicked. She isn’t sure what other than simply chipping away at the lead.
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“I don’t even know to be honest,” Hotchkiss said. “The first day was just rough. I came back, cleared my head and just tried to play the second day as best as I possibly could. I tried to get back as many strokes as possible. Then, I shot really well today.”
Hotchkiss was among a number of golfers that missed the varsity season in the spring. She said she was upset to miss an opportunity to golf with senior teammates one last time and a possible state trip.
“That didn’t get to happen, but I made considerable improvement from the spring to the summer just practicing non-stop and playing in all these tournaments,” Hotchkiss said. “It paid off.”
She joins former Saints teammate Ellie Braksiek, who won the first two years of girls’ competition in this event. Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Addison Berg was second with a total of 258.
“I’m very excited about it,” Hotchkiss said. “I’m so happy to follow in the footsteps of Ellie. Just continue it.”
This year’s tournament included an extra division, allowing recent high school graduates to play since spring sports seasons were canceled. Reid appreciated the chance to compete one more time.
“It was great,” said Reid, who will play basketball at NCAA Division-II Emporia State in Kansas. “He always told us thanks for playing but we were like, ‘Thank you for letting us play on these great course for free.’ We didn’t get a golf season, so this is like our three-day tournament of a golf season. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Reid edged Alec Brockmeyer, recording a par in a one-hole playoff after tying with a total of 251. Despite a tee shot that sliced into an adjacent fairway, Reid was able to chip on and two-putt to win.
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“It was awesome,” Reid said. “I’ve never played in a playoff hole before. I made my par a lot more difficult than I should have but I ended up making it.”
The tournament was a nice way to close the summer. Reid, an all-state basketball player, leaves for college in a couple days.
“It was something to feel good for me,” Reid said. “This is kind of fun. A last dance.”
The boys’ open division played four rounds. Burr shot 74 for a total of 299. Cedar Rapids Washington’s Nile Petersen was runner-up with 302, carding 72 in the final round. Burr’s Linn-Mar teammate, Carter Vieth, was third, posting 73 for a total of 305.
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