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GIRLS GOLF

In another tourney featuring the state's best, Millard North's Ruge makes practice round count, fires a 65

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Pius X Shootout, 8.31

With fans and competitors Kate Strickland (green), with Lincoln Southwest, and Nicole Kolbas (grey), with Lincoln Pius X, watching, Millard North's Katie Ruge (white) tees off on the ninth hole at the Pius X Shootout on Tuesday, at Woodland Hills Golf Course.

EAGLE — Katie Ruge had some free time Sunday, so she drove to Woodhills Golf Course, two days ahead of the Pius X Shoot-out, to sneak in a practice round.

"I kind of wanted to because I had nothing going on," she said.

It worked out quite well for the Millard North senior standout golfer.

In a competitive field, Ruge fired a 6-under 65 to win the tournament by six strokes. Ruge had fired 6-under in her golf career, but never a 65.

"I think my game was really just clicking today," she said. "I've been striking the ball well, and with high school golf I've been tuning in on my short game, which has really helped."

Lincoln Southwest shot a school-record 302 to win the tournament by one stroke over Millard North. Those two teams are expected to factor in the Class A state title chase in October.

Many of the state's top golfers also were here Tuesday. In fact, three of the best were grouped together — Ruge, Lincoln Pius X's Nicole Kolbas and Lincoln Southwest's Kate Strickland.

All three are Division I prospects (Strickland committed to Oral Roberts in July). All three have won Nebraska junior titles and played at tournaments around the country. Kolbas is the defending state champion after a remarkable sophomore season.

"It's definitely fun playing against good golfers," Ruge said. "Sometimes the pairings are not always like that, so when I get to play good girls like them (Kolbas and Strickland), it's super-fun, and it makes you more competitive."

Kolbas, who won the Beatrice and Kearney meets in playoffs last week, said walking the fairways with the elite golfers can boost her game.

Prep glance: Pius X's Kolbas wins another tournament in a playoff

"High school is always different," said Kolbas, who shot a 71 to finish second Tuesday. "You're playing shorter yardages, you're playing against different teams that you never get to play against in the summer, so getting the opportunities to be able to play with good players during the fall is awesome because in the end, they push you to be better.

"Especially when you're competitive and you want to win, you want to play with good players."

Kolbas and Ruge played to a playoff at last week's Beatrice meet. Ruge certainly raised the bar Tuesday. Everything was working, especially the putter.

"I kind of picked out my spots, was aggressive where I needed to be and took the birdie opportunities," she said.

The Pius X Shoot-Out field also included North Platte's Karsen Morrison, who took third at state last year. On Tuesday, she placed third with a 71.

Southwest had all five golfers finish in the top 10 Tuesday. The Silver Hawks were led by Alysen Sander, who carded a 74 to place fifth.

Lincoln East (323) was third and Pius X (339) was fourth.

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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