FREMONT, Neb. — 

Age, achievement and family are some of what you need to know about Nebraska women’s match-play champion Kate Strickland of Lincoln.

She’s a 15-year-old who beat another 15-year-old, Lauren Thiele of Wahoo, 6 and 4 in Wednesday’s title match at Fremont Golf Club.

She became the youngest winner — by more than a year — of a tournament that dates to 1916.

The sophomore-to-be is a niece, by marriage, to Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy. She was last year’s Nebraska girls golfer of the year when she won the Nebraska Girls Amateur.

But it had been awhile since she was in the winner’s circle.

“This means the world for me because this summer has been kind of crazy for me,” Strickland said. “Last year I was playing a lot more consistent golf, and this year it hasn’t been as consistent, not really what I wanted the whole year.

“So it was nice to have a win out here. I didn’t play my best in the qualifiers (USGA and PGA Girls), and it was kind of mentally tough on me going into my other tournaments. Being out here today was a really big confidence booster going into the rest of summer.”

Strickland was third last fall, by one stroke, in the Class A golf championship that was shortened to 18 holes. This summer, she lost in the first round of the state’s girls match play, failed to qualify for the U.S. Junior Girls Championship and tied for fifth at the Nebraska PGA Girls Championship.

On Wednesday, she won the first hole and never trailed. She pitched in for birdie 3 on the seventh hole, staking her to a 5-up lead. Thiele, who plays volleyball and basketball and is on the boys golf team at Wahoo Neumann, won the 10th hole to get back to 5-down.

But Strickland closed out the match with a two-putt par 4 on the 14th.

“It was definitely an honor to play with Kate,” Thiele said. “She’s a really good player and I was honored to make it this far. I got a lot of experience from this week. Some of these aren’t junior golfers any more and they have a lot more experience themselves, so it forced me to grow up a little bit.”

Championship flight: Kate Strickland, Lincoln, def. Lauren Thiele, Wahoo, 6-and-4. Founders flight: Katie Ruge, Omaha, def. Jalea Culliver, Omaha, 5-and-4. Senior flight: Robin Krapfl, Lincoln, def. Debbie Wilbeck, Omaha, 5-and-3.

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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