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Country Youth Classic: Miller right at home with 10-stroke win
Bloomington-Normal team member Stacey Miller chips the ball onto the green during the alternate shot competition. (Lee News Service/Lyndsie Schlink)

NORMAL - Stacey Miller essentially won the Country Youth Classic girls 18-22 title in Tuesday's first round after firing a course-record 2-under-par 70 from the gold tees and opening a seven-shot lead at ISU Golf Course.

Just to make sure, the Illinois State sophomore stuck to her game plan in Wednesday's final round.

"I played the exact same way today," said Miller, a Central Catholic High School graduate. "I have not had this big of a lead going into a final round, but I didn't even think about it. I figured, 'Just go out there like I did the day before, worry about my shots and play my game, and see what happens.' "

Miller, taking full advantage of her home-course knowledge, closed with a steady 2-over-par 74 for a 144 total and a runaway 10-shot victory over Metropolis' Chelsea Harris (75-154).

"It means a lot," Miller said. "It shows that my game is improving and all the practice has really paid off. I'm enjoying it, and I'm going to keep working hard. Not many people know how you do when you go away to a tournament four hours away, so it's a little nicer to win at my home course."

Miller started on the back nine and birdied Nos. 14 and 18 to offset a pair of bogeys and make the turn at even par. She settled down after two early bogeys on her final nine and parred the last five holes.

"I hit a couple of shots into the trees and had to play it from there, but other than that my game wasn't too bad," Miller said. "I can't complain with 2-over, you know."

Lambert wins boys 18-22

Unlike Miller's romp, Western Illinois junior Austin Lambert of Swansea had to sweat out a one-shot victory over Eureka College sophomore Dan Cameron of Byron in the boys 18-22 division. Lambert, who opened with a 69, shot a 5-over 76 for a 145 total.

"It was kind of like a different course today," Lambert said. "The wind started blowing and the course started firming up, especially on the back nine. It's a hard golf course, and you have to put it in the right position. If you don't, you get penalized for it."

Lambert said he had "four or five" par saves that enabled him to survive on a day when no one made a charge at the leaders.

"I got up and down for a couple of bogeys, and that was probably the big thing," Lambert said. "When I got in trouble I didn't try to do anything stupid. I just took the score. I didn't have any big numbers on my scorecard, and that's what you have to do when it comes down to pressure moments.

"This is my first tournament win in a couple of years, and it feels good. To come out here and win, especially against college kids I'll probably see during the (school) year, it means a lot because it's kind of making a statement for Western."

Cameron, who shot a 68 to grab the first-round lead, birdied No. 1 but couldn't overcome back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 and finished at 78-146. ISU golfer Matt Ryba of Peoria was third at 74-148.

"We were pretty bunched up," Cameron said. "None of us really played well. I give credit to (Lambert). He got up and down from a lot of tough spots. He played well enough."

Streator's Leonard wins AJGA

In the girls American Junior Golf Association portion of the event, Streator High School senior Jackie Leonard sank a five-foot birdie putt on No. 18 for a 78 and a 154 total that gave her a one-shot win over Monmouth's Jaleesa Burton (78-155). First-round leader Emily Brink of Quincy, who opened with a 74, ballooned to an 83 and finished fourth at 157.

Leonard, last year's runner-up in the 16-17 division, made three straight double bogeys on Nos. 9-11 before rebounding with a birdie on No. 12.

"I was just thinking, 'You have to calm down and get back into it. You can't let yourself get out of it,' " Leonard said of her rocky stretch. "Then I stuck one. I just tried not to let it get to me."

University High School senior Cheryl Liang rallied to win the girls 16-17 division at 78-158, one shot better than Decatur's Ashley Thorpe (78-159). First-round leader Kathryn Koester of Effingham, who opened with a 74, finished at 86-160.

"I didn't think I had a chance to win," Liang said. "I didn't really care if I placed or not. I just wanted to make sure I had a good round. Yesterday, I was disappointed in how I played, so I wanted to do better today. Yesterday, I didn't play as smart, so today I was making sure I chose the right club, did the right shot and played it safe."

Sterling High School sophomore Ember Schuldt shot a 73 - the low round of the day in any division - for a 149 total and an 18-stroke victory in the girls 14-15 division over Bloomington's Jenna Wampler (87-167).

"I made a couple of bogeys, but I was lucky to make my birdies and keep it going," Schuldt said. "I'm very happy. I've been gradually getting better every day."

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