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By Bob Kelley
Retired RLC Sports Information Director
INA, Ill. (April 15, 2014) – Rend Lake College Women’s Golf Coach Cindy Corn has learned a lot in her 14 years at the helm, even though her Lady Warriors captured Region XXIV Championships each of the program’s first two seasons and finished sixth and seventh at the national level. She would be the first to admit it.
One of her early lessons was to appreciate a two-time Region XXIV Medalist more; more than she did at the time, that is. When Bobbie Jo Bivens enters the Rend Lake College Sports Hall of Fame Saturday, April 26, she will have no bigger supporter than Corn.
“I’m not sure I appreciated her feat of winning back-to-back Region championships as much as I should have at the time,” admitted Corn. “But to think, 15 years later, no one else has ever repeated. It makes you realize how special her accomplishment was.”
The defending medalist who repeated, leading her team to victory on both occasions, will be joined by players who followed in her giant footsteps – the 2004-05 Women’s Golf Team which improved the program’s National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) profile by placing an all-time best fourth in the Spring 2005 Finals.
The Induction Ceremony for the two Women’s Golf entries comprising the 15th RLC Sports Hall of Fame Class is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on-campus in the Pat Kern Private Dining Room of the Student Center. The public is invited, with reservations.
Bivens was a standout from 1999-2001. Coach Cindy Corn remembers one of the program’s first-year recruits as “fiery,” someone “who always had a look of determination on her face,” “definitely a competitor.” The record book would define this Hall-of-Famer as a “winner.” “She wanted to win, that’s for sure,” agreed Corn, and she did.
The Petersburg Porta High School product – the daughter of a Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Club Pro – remains the only two-time Region XXIV Medalist in the 15 years since Rend Lake College began competing. She was her team’s top player in four of five tournaments leading up to the come-from-behind Region crown as a freshman and three of five that spring.
As a sophomore, she captured the 21-team Illinois Wesleyan Classic against four-year rivals with her 76-72–148 and then repeated Region XXIV honors by lowering her scorecard at The Rail Golf Course in Springfield by six strokes with a steady 80-84–164 as the defending champion Lady Warriors prevailed by one stroke in a contentious finals rerun over John A. Logan.
Bivens and a strong supporting class finished sixth in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championships their first spring in 2000, seventh the next. Among her teammates both seasons was 2008 RLC Sports Hall Inductee Elizabeth Kasey.
These days, it is Bobbie Jo Decker, née Bivens. Now living in Murphysboro, the former Lady Warrior dubbed “Piglet” within her RLC golfing clan is married to Matt Decker, a coach and country club manager, and the mother of three young children.
The four-time Most Valuable Player capped her prep career by placing fifth in the Illinois High School Association State Finals, then made her Rend Lake College debut with an impressive fifth-place effort at the University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagle Classic, where the lone Juco guests among 12 entries were runners-up in the program’s first-ever tournament. No other team could match RLC’s showing with three individuals in the Top 10.
In the four-team RLC Mary M. O’Neal Classic, Bivens claimed medalist honors at Rend Lake Golf Course with her 81-77–158, 15 strokes ahead of second-place Candice “Roo” Vogt, with “Tigger” Kasey another shot back. Despite her dominance out front and the 1-2-3 sweep by teammates, the Lady Warriors needed it all to eke out a 702-703 victory over rival Logan.
Freshman classmates Bivens and Vogt then combined forces for second in the just-for-fun, five-team John A. Logan Match Cup.
On Day Two, in wind, rain and cold, Bivens and her upstart team rallied from six down to capture a first Region XXIV championship by eight strokes and a berth in the NJCAA Championships the following May. The medalist flirted with disaster before pulling out a 91-79–170 triumph.
Leading up to the grand finale that freshman season, Bivens tied for second individually at the 15-team Bellarmine (KY) Spring Classic when the team was third against four-year foes and was second as RLC blew away four opponents by 35 shots in the McKendree Invitational.
Corn recalled one tournament Bivens was leading. A rival coach, following his No. 1 golfer in the same pairing, would begin eating a bag of chips each time the frontrunner was putting.
“You don’t think a lot about it, but the coach was making a lot of noise. And he was doing it on purpose hoping it would bother her,” said Corn. “‘Will you tell him to stop it!’” she demanded of her coach. Bobbie Jo was fired up. She thought he was trying to get in her head. He was, but it didn’t work. It just made her play that much better.”
Unfortunately for Bivens, her game and the National Tournament course in Shawnee, OK, were not a good fit. The player was long off the tee but hit it high as well; the windy Oklahoma layout was better suited for the lower-the-better driver.
Kasey gained Second-Team All-America laurels with her 88-81-89-80–338, good for ninth overall, but Bivens and Vogt tied for 30th at 92-94-88-91–365 and 95-92-86-92–365, respectively.
It was more of the same in Year Two for the newest Hall-of-Famer, who lowered her score by four at 90-92-88-91–361 but slipped to 35th, behind Lady Warriors Roberta Sentel (22nd at 348), Kasey (30th at 356) and Stephanie Eller (tied for 32nd at 360).
Bivens, Kasey and Megan Mosel remained teammates for two more seasons after RLC, contributing to another first-year program at Arkansas Tech University.
Election to the RLC Sports Hall of Fame requires a minimum 75 percent (seven) of the votes from a nine-member Selection Committee who consider those former student-athletes and others nominated.
The purpose is to recognize those individuals and/or teams who, through leadership and character, have made exceptional contributions to the honor and prestige of Rend Lake College in the field of athletics and who have continued to demonstrate the values learned through participation in intercollegiate athletics in their daily lives.
The RLC Sports Hall of Fame is located in the lobby area of the Aquatics Center, which also serves as the entrance to James (Hummer) Waugh Gymnasium.