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LHT is a great event for all ages

One of the great things about the Ladies Lincoln Highway golf tournament being played at Kishwaukee Country Club in DeKalb is the diversity of the field.

There are businesswomen and stay-at-home moms. There are tournament-tested veterans, and others who play mostly social rounds. There are retirees and high school kids.

Consider the fifth group on Friday, which included Kishwaukee’s Ruth Heal and Timber Creek’s Bella Heintzelman.

The 74-year-old Heal has won the tournament 23 times, in five different decades, and began playing in the event around 1970. She noted the tournament is a bit of a reunion each summer for players like herself, but she also gets a kick out of the young bloods involved.

“I’m glad to see there are a lot of players that want to still play in it, that like to play in it and enjoy playing in it,” Heal said.

“All these ladies I’ve seen for years and years, and they still want to keep coming back. We’ve got two young players [Emma Carpenter and Allison Yohanan] on our team, and they wanted to play on the team. It’s great they wanted to do that.”

Heintzelman, 16, is going to be a junior at Dixon High School this fall. Most of her tournament golf is with her peers, and she enjoys the experience of playing with older ladies.

“It’s definitely very intimidating knowing they’ve played basically their whole life,” Heintzelman said, “but it’s also very fun because they’re encouraging me the whole time. They’re making it fun. If you hit a bad shot, they’re giving you confidence for the next one. It’s awesome.”

When Heintzelman hit a rough patch on the back nine Friday at Kishwaukee Country Club, it was Heal who helped her right the ship.

“I had a bad hole and she was there for me,” Heintzelman said. “She said, ‘Just get back in your mental game.’ She was encouraging me the whole time – good shot, great putt. She’s awesome. I love her.”

It was Heal’s first time playing with Heintzelman, and came away impressed.

“She’s going to be a good player,” Heal said. “She’s got a nice swing. I think she had a couple of bad holes and I just said, ‘Hey, get your mind back into this,’ and she played fine coming in. She’s going to be a fine player.”

The 18 holes were also a learning experience for the two players, one in the sunset of her career and the other just beginning.

“I can’t swing like them anymore,” Heal said of young players like Heintzelman. “I have to watch the old people so I can go, ‘I can swing like that old person.’ “

For Heintzelman, it was a lesson in course management to see how Heal got around a course she knows forward and backward.

“She knows every shot in the book,” Heintzelman said. “She knows how to get from here to there. I learned a lot from her.”

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