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Girls Golf: SWR junior ties for 11th in state tourney

Melanie Hagen didn’t have a freshman season with the Shoreham-Wading River girls golf team in 2020. After three preseason practices, the season was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year Hagen played well enough that she would have qualified for the state tournament had there been a state tournament, but there wasn’t one. Again, a victim of the pandemic.

So, this year Hagen made the most of her opportunity, becoming the first member of the five-year-old SWR team to qualify and play in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championship Sunday and Monday at McGregor Links Country Club in Wilton, N.Y. Not only that, but the junior was the top finisher from Suffolk County and the only Suffolk girl to earn all-state status, according to SWR coach Debbie Lutjen.

Hagen carded a 78 on Sunday and followed that up with an 83 Monday, tying her with two others for an 11th-place finish. One hundred and eleven golfers entered the tournament.

Kennedy Swedick, a sophomore from The Albany Academies, scored a pair of even-par 72s for the championship.

“That was my best round this season,” Hagen said of her Sunday performance in a phone interview prior to the awards presentations Monday afternoon. “I think I just kept a calm, level head and was able to get back on track if I got like a little frustrated.”

“Today was similar to yesterday, there were just a couple of holes where I had a couple of bad shots, but otherwise it was really good,” she said. “I honestly went in just hoping that I would play good by myself and not compare myself to other people.”

Lutjen was full of praise for how Hagen did.

“I think she played some of her best golf of the season, definitely,” the coach said. “Today there were just three holes that threw her off track on the back nine, but then she settled down and still finished number one in our section and 11th in the state. I’m very proud of her. I think she played outstanding.”

Hagen said the course presented fast greens and hills, which made it challenging. She noticed that a state tournament is, well, different than a typical high school tournament.

“It’s honestly a little bigger than counties,” she said. “Counties is also a huge tournament, but there’s a little more pressure at states because there’s more people with different skill levels here.”

Hagen said she is in her fifth year of playing golf competitively.

“Melanie, all-around, she’s long off the tee, she has great touch around the greens and she’s consistent, very consistent,” Lutjen said. “She has a great attitude. She has fun out there. That’s important.”

Hagen said her game has improved a good deal over the past year and this state tournament experience will help her down the road.

As for this season, she said, “This is a great way to end it.”