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Hunke, Ruge advance to Nebraska Women’s Match Play final

Hannah Hunke and Katie Ruge advance to the Nebraska Women's Match Play championship.
Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 9:31 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Snyder’s Hannah Hunke and Omaha’s Katie Ruge will square-off in the Final of the 97th Nebraska Women’s Match Play Championship at Kearney Country Club, after advancing through two rounds on Tuesday.

Both players faced a tough road to the Final, with Hunke defeating Papillion's Sydney Taake in the Quarterfinals. Hunke then had to face the No. 1 seed Lauren Thiele of Wahoo in the Semifinals. She built an early lead, but struggled with her driver, and Thiele closed Hunke's lead to just 1 up through eight holes. That's when Hunke took advantage of the par-3s and made her move. She hit her approach close on No. 9 and rolled in the birdie putt, then knocked down a long birdie attempt on the No. 10, another par-3.

Thiele came back to win Nos. 11 and 13, both par-4s, but Hunke answered by winning No. 15, and then made her third birdie-2 of the match on No. 16 to close it out, 3 and 2.

Ruge had a couple tough tests as well, needing to get past a couple NGA champions on her way to the Final. She took on the 2017 Nebraska Girls' Amateur Champion Ricki Hickstein of Chadron in the Quarterfinals. Hickstein won the first two holes of the match, which started on the back nine, but Ruge bounced back quickly, winning four of the next six holes. She stayed on a roll on the front nine, winning four of the first six holes on that side to take a 3-up lead. She closed out the match, 2 and 1, with a par on No. 8.

In the Semifinals, Ruge had to face a five-time NGA champion, Haley Thiele of Wahoo. Thiele has won three different NGA championships, but never the Nebraska Women's Match Play. Ruge was not intimated though, winning the first two holes and rolling to a 3-up lead after nine holes. The two players then tied the next six holes, including two birdies on No. 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 No. 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.

Hunke will be a senior this fall on the Omaha Mavericks women's golf team. She finished runner-up at the 2017 Nebraska Girls' Match Play Championship, but would collect her first NGA title with a win on Wednesday. Ruge will be a junior at Millard North this fall, and it would also be her first title.

In the Founder's Bracket Final, North Platte's Karsen Morrison will face Beemer's Lacie Fox. In the 1st Flight Bracket of the Non-Championship Division, Kearney's Sally Bryson takes on Grand Island's Chris Seberger. In the 2nd Flight Bracket, Kearney's Sandy Janssen will play Lincoln's Kelly Nelson.

The matches begin at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, with the Championship Final set for 8 a.m. The updated brackets are available on the championship website, along with additional information.

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