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St. Anthony’s Grace London wins second NSCHSAA golf title

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Few things in high school sports rival that championship feeling. For Grace London, the first time was all about the thrill. When the St. Anthony’s senior got to feel it a second time, it was more about satisfaction.

London was as steady and consistent as a metronome in navigating the shaggy rough and fast greens of the Red Course at Eisenhower Park as she shot an 82 on Monday to run away with her second title in the NSCHSAA Girls Golf Individual Championships. London won the 2022 championship as a sophomore.

“Winning this is great, but a very different experience than the first time,” London said. “I was young the first time and it was exciting. As a senior, this comes with more satisfaction because I finished my final season strong.”

London, however, isn’t quite done. She is one of six Long Islanders who will be competing to be the state CHSAA individual champion at Staten Island’s Silver Lake Golf Course next Monday.

“I’d love to win that, because it’s something I haven’t done” said London, who finished second at the 2023 state tournament, one stroke behind Kellenberg’s Bridget LaRosa.

LaRosa shot 95 Monday to finish second and Kellenberg teammates Cat Slade and Gabby DeBono finished in a tie for third place, each shooting 96. They all qualified for next week’s state tournament, along with St. Anthony’s teammates Emma Giaquinto (98) and Grace Mallgraf (99). Mallgraf won a one-hole playoff against Sacred Heart’s Josephine Germano for the last qualifying spot; Germano will be the first alternate.

True drives to the fairway and accurate approach shots were the hallmarks of London’s winning round. She didn’t have a birdie, but she also didn’t have a double bogey.

“This is 18 challenging holes, but Grace has the drive and stamina for it and she never rattles,” St. Anthony’s coach Kathy Calfa said. “When the first shot isn’t where she wants it, she always finds a way to save it.”

“My drives and irons were what I wanted them to be, but I gave up too many strokes with my putting,” said London, who will attend Indiana and try to make the team as a walk-on.

London needed only two holes to build a two-stroke lead over the rest of the field and kept pulling away. She was ahead of LaRosa – who had birdies on 3 and 11 – by the 13th hole before the Kellenberg junior found the tall grass on the 14th and 15th holes.

“I’m usually a ‘go for it’ player but I played the back nine very conservative because I wanted to win,” London said.

Slade, the 2023 NSCHSAA champion, recovered from a poor start with a 46 on the back nine. Her surge included a pitching wedge to within eight feet of the pin on the 11th hole. DeBono called her drive to within 10 feet of the hole on the 13th her best shot of the day. Giaquinto may have had the shot of the day on the 15th hole when she hit a wedge to within one foot of the pin.

London and Slade have been friendly rivals for years and Slade had been getting the best of it this season. She beat London three times head-to-head in team play. Just not this time.

“I had to get one against her this season,” London said.

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