LAKE ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Casey Ott likes to do things her way.
The 16-year-old from Conway attacks the golf course all by herself. With no help at all.
No caddie. No coaches. No friends. Just Ott — all alone.
“I don’t like to be told what to do,” Ott says. “I can read greens, choose club length, carry my own bag. It’s just me out there, and I don’t need anyone else.”
The lonesome ball-striker needed no assistance Thursday as she fired a blistering 1-under-par 71 to crush the field in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship qualifying tournament at Lake Forest Country Club in Lake St. Louis.
Ott, who will be a senior at Conway High in the fall, advanced to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, which will be played July 24-29 at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.
The runner-up to Ott is a familiar name.
She finished five strokes ahead of Lauren Chappell, of Charleston, Ill., who carded a 4-over-76 to advance. Julia Matzat of Parkland, Fla., nailed down the third and final qualifying spot with a 77.
Chappell, a daughter of former UCA men’s basketball coach Rand Chappell, grew up only a few blocks away in Conway and competed with Ott in youth golf before Chappell’s family moved to Charleston prior to her freshman high school season.
“We took turns winning against each other ever since we were 6 years old,” Chappell said. “And we’re still good friends.”
Chappell won an Illinois high school individual state title her freshman, sophomore and senior seasons. She recorded four birdies on Thursday.
“There were some ups and downs, but overall, I was happy with it,” said Chappell, who is headed to Southern Methodist University.
Rand Chappell is currently an assistant basketball coach at Eastern Illinois University.
The six-day event at Boone Valley next month featured two days of stroke play before the field of 156 players is trimmed to 64 for four days of match play.
Ott took off right from the outset in the qualifier and sat at 3-under at the turn before coasting home.
As usual, she handled her business in solo fashion. While almost every one of the 33 other competitors had a friend or high school teammate on the bag, Ott happily lugged her clubs around the long 6,378-yard course in the heat of a 90-degree afternoon.
“I know I probably get a little more tired at the end than the others,” Ott said. “But it works for me.”
Ott, who has committed to play at the University of Kentucky, allowed her sister to serve as caddie at last years’s U.S. Girls’ Junior in Paramus, N.J.
“It didn’t really work out,” said Ott, who did not advance to the match-play round. “I’m just more comfortable doing things myself.”
A long hitter, Ott recorded five birdies and stood at 4 under at one stage. She closed with an impressive birdie on the 489-yard par-5 finishing hole.
She consistently hit the ball 250 yards off the tee and displayed an air-tight short game.
Ott’s preference to go alone even stretches to her father, Tray, who accompanies her to each round but regularly hides out of sight so Casey won’t see him.
“He’s usually behind a tree somewhere,” Casey said.
Explained Tray, “I know by now, just to stay out of her way and let her do her thing.”
Ott established herself as a serious contender for the national title with what she called “a good, but not great” round.
The three qualifiers, and maybe an alternate or two, will reconvene at Boone Valley in late July with a national title on the line.
Ott, for one, is ready.
“I know what to expect now, and I know what I need to do to be successful,” she said.