Mexico's Knipfel heads to state for the fourth time

Mexico's Knipfel heads to state for the fourth time
Mexico senior Lilly Knipfel
Dave Faries

Lilly Knipfel’s favorite moment in her high school golf career came during a tournament in Moberly when she clobbered a teammate with an errant shot. Kylah Gore was playing a hole ahead of Knipfel when it happened.

“I overshot on a par three,” Knipfel recalled with a laugh. The ball hit Gore square in the back and rebounded toward the green. Beyond her unintended victim was a steep slope, inviting golf balls to roll even farther from the pin.
“That saved me,” she added.

The Bulldogs’ standout doesn’t generally need much help. On Monday she tees off for the fourth time at the Missouri State High School Activities Association state golf tournament. She is a repeat All-District golfer, finishing in the top five three consecutive years. Knipfel captured this year’s North Central Missouri Conference tournament crown by 16 strokes over second place Grace Siegel of Fulton. The accolades go on and on.

Yet the Mexico senior takes all the success – as well as the occasional moment of frustration – in stride.

“She’s really calm, really steady,” observed Bulldogs’ girls golf coach Lindsey Yancey. “With her knowledge of the game and work ethic, she’s a dream to coach.”

The game can always turn on a golfer. Even the time Knipfel struggled through a round approaching triple digits at sectionals her freshman year, she keeps her thoughts on the next shot. Knipfel credits this composed demeanor for her success on the course.

“I just try to keep a good head on, not overthink it,” she explained. “If your head’s not there, your skills won’t be.”

Knipfel picked up a club for the first time when she was just three years old. By the time she turned seven she was playing competitively. When she began playing high school golf as a freshman the pressure of major events no longer made an impression on her.

Knipfel finished fourth in districts that year, and followed with an 18th at state. Playing at Redfield Golf Course in Eugene her sophomore season, Knipfel trailed winner – and teammate – Gore by a single stroke at districts, capturing second. She went on to tie for 14th in state competition at Mozingo Lake Golf Course in Maryville. A year ago a round of 82 brought her a third at districts. And Knipfel just missed a top five at state, winding up in a tie for sixth.

With that kind of resume, a top three – even a win – at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield next week is possible. She is familiar with the course, having played it several times. But topping the leaderboard at state is not something she cares to elaborate on.

“The possibility is always there” Knipfel said.

Aside from her veteran, Yancey fielded a young squad this fall. On some teams a standout performer could become a distraction. But the coach points out that Knipfel’s ease and confidence allows her to be both a leader and a supporter.

“Lilly does a good job of not being intimidating,” Yancey noted, adding that Knipfel’s personality rubs off on the other golfers. “She made it easy for them to be them, and they pick up good habits.”

Knipfel’s final two rounds golfing for Mexico take place on Monday and Tuesday in New Bloomfield. She tees off on Monday at 9:24 a.m. from the first tee, playing alongside Marichelle Mantala of Logan-Rogersville and Ursuline’s Molly Fagan. Tuesday’s tee times will be set based on first round results.
After that, Knipfel will likely hear from several universities. She hopes to continue golfing on the college level.

Yancey meanwhile expects to continue the Bulldogs’ golfing legacy, but will miss her four-year state qualifier.

“She’s irreplaceable,” the coach said.


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