Chelsea Dantonio had to remember to breathe.
The Lancaster senior has been at the top of Section VI girls golf for the better part of six years, but this was a first for her.
After 18 holes at Gowanda Country Club on a chilly Wednesday, Dantonio played on, continuing her battle with Marissa DelMonaco, a junior from Southwestern.
Finally on the third playoff hole, Dantonio made her putt to win her fifth Section VI individual championship.
“I’ve never been in a playoff before,” Dantonio said. “I was like shaking and thinking, ‘Ok, you’ve just got to breathe. Nice, slow swing.’ Because when you get nervous you tend to get quicker and if you swing quick, you’re gonna pull it. It’s going to go all over. That’s not going to be good. I just had to take some deep breaths and just play how I’m able to.”
DelMonaco came out with a strong front nine, and led Dantonio by four strokes at the turn.
“I just went out there with a carefree attitude to play to my ability,” DelMonaco said. “I played really well. My putter was working. I was making everything. On No. 3, I made a birdie and then I fought for all my pars.”
Dantonio kept focused on a positive attitude and a birdie on No. 11 helped give her confidence to fight back.
“Attitude was everything,” Dantonio said. “Just take it one shot at a time. If she wins, she wins. You can’t control anything about her game. I just had to keep it one shot at a time and stay positive.”
DelMonaco ran into trouble on No. 17, taking a penalty stroke after her ball went into a water hazard. Then her drop ended up in a divot and she double-bogeyed while Dantonio made par. DelMonaco rebounded nicely, however, with a strong putt on No. 18 with the players shooting a round of two-over 74, forcing a sudden-victory playoff.
Both players fumbled around on the first playoff hole.
On the second hole, DelMonaco had a putt to win, but the ball jumped out of the cup. The players went on to their third playoff hole.
Dantonio hit her second shot onto the green while DelMonaco had to chip on with her third shot. Her long putt missed while Dantonio finished off the hole with a two-putt for the victory.
“It was getting pretty tight and that putt on No. 2 I just missed the hole and on No. 3 I hit a good punch shot, but my chip kinda went past the hole,” DelMonaco said. “That’s golf.”
Dantonio, who will play at Division I Winthrop in South Carolina next year, finished second at the New York State Championship last year in Delhi and is confident of her ability to challenge for the title again this year.
DelMonaco will make her fourth straight appearance in the state tournament. She finished 17th last year.
Her round of 74 in the sectional championship was an incredible 20-stroke improvement from her sixth-place round of 94 last year.
The New York State championship will be held June 12-14 at SUNY-Delhi.
The Section VI team includes the top nine finishers from Wednesday’s round. Along with Dantonio and DelMonaco are Sarah Godfrey (Depew) 76, Alexis Kim (Clarence) 94, Emily Isaacson (Jamestown) 95, Elaina Lopez (Clarence) 99, Samantha Gaffney (Williamsville East) 106, Marina Kessler (Fredonia) 106 and Madison Cooper (Clarence) 106.