Steady Down the Stretch, Salonek Wins Second Minnesota State Junior Girls' Championship

July 13, 2023 | 4 min.
By Nick Hunter

  HASTINGS, Minn. – Posting a 2-over 74 for the second consecutive round Thursday, Olivia Salonek earned a four-stroke victory over Selena Wu at Hastings Golf Club to claim her second Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship victory in three seasons.

With her win, Salonek becomes the 21st player since 1939 to win multiple Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championships.

“This is my last year as a junior, so this win means the most to me. It’s a great way to end my junior career,” Salonek said Thursday. “I’ve won in the past, so I knew it was possible and it motivated me to keep working hard and prepare for this week.

“I was happy with how well I was able to scramble and save par when I needed to. I hit some good shots when it mattered.”

Opening the championship with a 2-under 70 Tuesday at Emerald Greens Golf Course, Salonek sat tied with Wu before both carded a 2-over 72 during the second round Wednesday to remain deadlocked ahead of Thursday’s final round, which shifted venues to Hastings Golf Club.

A steady Salonek carded a lone bogey during her opening nine, but needed a pair of key up-and-downs at the eighth and ninth holes to maintain a slim lead over Wu heading to their inward nine.

The lead changed momentarily with a Wu birdie and Salonek bogey at the 10th, but Salonek found her footing by playing her final six holes in 1-under, thanks to her only birdie of the final round at the par-5 16th to pull away late.

“I just planned on coming out with no expectations today and try to play my best,” Salonek said. “I was hitting the ball well, but didn’t get a lot of putts to drop and had a couple of nice saves as well. I had to get used to the different speeds on the greens, but it was a good challenge."

As one of the more consistent junior golfers in recent years, Salonek has collected 12 top-10 finishes since 2018, including seven top-5 finishes over the past three seasons.

Her first state victory came at Keller Golf Course where she won the 2020 Minnesota PGA Junior Players’ Tournament of Champions.

Salonek fired a 3-under 70 at Le Sueur Country Club to win a rain-shortened Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship by one stroke over two-time winner Camille Kuznik in 2021.

Salonek opted to graduate early from Roseville High School, passing on the chance to contend for the Class AAA individual title this June and challenge Blaine’s Kathryn VanArragon for Ms. Minnesota Golf honors as the state’s best senior golfer.

Instead, Salonek turned her focus solely on her golf game, travelling around the country last fall and this winter, preparing for her upcoming freshman season at the University of Iowa.

“I missed playing high school golf, but I had some great opportunities, and it was great to have the year off and work on my golf game,” she said.

Opening with a 70 during Tuesday’s opening round, Wu mirrored Salonek for the first two rounds to sit tied atop the leaderboard with one round to play.

Bouncing back from two early birdies during the final round Thursday, Wu took the outright lead at the par-5 10th by rolling in her birdie chance.

But Wu would stumble down the stretch by carding five bogeys over her next seven holes to slip from contention, posting a final-round 78 to finish four shots back of Salonek in second at 6-over 222.

“It’s tougher here and I had to change my mindset and play it safe,” Wu said about the change of venues for the final round. “I just wanted to stay consistent instead of trying to compare to what Olivia was doing. I was just worried about my own score today.

“I made a couple bogeys on the first couple of holes, which was rough, but I kind of brought it back. You’re going to have back days, so I tried to enjoy it. I was pretty consistent the first two days and made a lot of pars.”

As a freshman at Minnetonka High School, Wu helped the Skippers to their first state appearance in school history, finishing in third place, 23 shots behind Class AAA champion Maple Grove.

Individually, Wu began the championship with a 6-over 78 before improving by one stroke during the final round to place 13th at 11-over 155.

Wu then notched the first top-10 finish of her career with a sixth-place finish at the Minnesota Girls’ Junior PGA Championship at Legacy Golf.

Ava Hanneman posted a 5-over 77 Thursday to finish alone in third place at 10-over 226, while Nicole Reineke and Amelia Morton placed in a tied for fourth at 228.

Started in 1939, the championship was called the MWGA Minnesota Junior Girls’ State Championship until 1974.

The Minnesota Women’s Golf Association and the Minnesota Golf Association each conducted their own junior championships from 1975 to 2001.

From 2002 to 2016, the event was played as the MWGA Junior Girls’ State Championship prior to the two organizations merging for the 2017 season, moving forward as the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship.

Beginning in 2024, the winner of the Minnesota State Junior Girls’ Championship will receive an exemption into the U.S. Junior Girls’ Amateur.

 

Cut to low 24 + ties after 36 holes (+15, 159)

Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

He then contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, prior to turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his 11th season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He resides in New Prague with his wife and two sons.

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