WACONIA — Sophia Yoemans wasn't able to take a deep breath all week.
The Red Wing native and former three-time Minnesota high school girls golf state medalist was in a battle for the lead at the Minnesota Golf Association's Women's State Amateur Championship for all three rounds — and then some.
Yoemans trailed New Prague native Taylor Ledwein by one shot going to the 18th hole of Wednesday's final round at Island View Golf Club.
Knowing she likely needed a birdie to force a playoff, Yoemans' approach shot on the 18th spun back just off the front edge of the green. Her best choice was to make a run at the hole with a chip shot, which she did, and she drained it, forcing a playoff with Ledwein.
Both players parred the first playoff hole and their approach shots found the back edge of the green on the second playoff hole. From their, Yoemans two-putted for par and her first-ever victory in the State Am. She finished the 54-hole tournament at 4-under par overall.
"I’ve been up there a few times and this one means a lot," Yoemans told MNGolf.org. "This is the biggest tournament a college player or amateur player can play in during the summer. I’ve been so close the past four years, so it feels good.
"It was a battle, too. Good match with Taylor all week and it was a lot of fun."
Yoemans added to a successful summer for golfers from Red Wing. Cecil Belisle, a former boys high school state medalist for the Wingers high school team, won the NJCAA Division II national championship in May, then won the Minnesota State Open on July 15.
Yoemans, who will be a junior at the University of Missouri this fall, has now won 10 tournament titles in her home state. She broke onto the state-wide scene in 2017, when she captured the first of her three state high school championships. She also won the top two junior tournaments in the state that year — the Minnesota Girls Junior PGA Championship and the Minnesota State Girls Junior Championship — as well as the Resorters.
In 2018, Yoemans won her second high school state title and defended her Minnesota Girls Junior PGA Championship. A year later, she capped her high school career with a record-setting performance at the Class AA state meet, becoming the first high school golfer in state history to break 130 for two rounds at a state meet, when she shot 63-66—129 at the Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan. That summer she teamed with Trey Fessler to win the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship.
Wednesday, she added another prestigious championship to her ever-expanding list, thanks to a dramatic chip-in on the 18th hole, and a calm par on the second playoff hole.
"I had 102 yards to the pin and didn’t hit a good wedge," Yoemans said of her approach on the 18th Wednesday. "I was in the fringe by two feet and probably could’ve putted it, but I thought I had a better chance chipping. My dad told me not to leave it short and I went for it."
Yoemans was one shot back of Ledwein, who recently graduated from Bradley University, when they started the final round Wednesday and the two traded the lead several times throughout the round.
“I was just hoping to come in play the same as I had all week,” Yoemans said. “My ball-striking was definitely the worst (Wednesday), so that didn’t help, I don’t know if that was fatigue or what, but too many off shots.
“Encouraged by my putting because that’s what I’ve been working on the most. It’s what I struggled with most in college, so my coaches will be happy to hear I putted well for the entire tournament.”
Yoemans' high school teammate at Red Wing, Leah Herzog, finished in a three-way tie for fifth place at 9-over-par, 225. Northfield's Molly Stevens finished in a tie for 10th (11-over, 227); Lake City's Lexi Geolat and La Crescent native Anna Tollefson tied for 20th (15-over, 231); Red Wing's Stephanie Herzog tied for 26th (18-over, 234); Lake City's Ava Wallerich placed 32nd (20-over, 236); and Lake City standout Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen — who will be just a high school sophomore this fall — tied for 46th (24-over, 240).
The MGA Women's Amateur Championship will be held in Rochester next summer, at the Rochester Golf and Country Club.