May 09, 2008

Decatur newspaper writer wins annual contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The heart-tugging story of professional golfer Angie Hill's journey through life took the top prize in the annual Polly Robinson Feature Writing Contest at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Troy Hayes, a sports writer at the Herald & Review in Decatur, gave readers a glimpse into the life of 24-year-old Hill, a golfer in the Duramed FUTURES Tour, a stepping-stone to the LPGA. Profiled while Hill was competing in the Futures' Players Championship in Forsyth last June, Hayes told the story of a young woman who began life in a series of foster homes until her adoption at age seven, and the determination that carried Hill to success.

"There are some tremendous stories year in and year out, so it's a big honor to be recognized," Hayes said.

He wins $150 for his effort.

The annual contest, administered by the SIUC School of Journalism, is in memory of Polly Robinson, a 1978 SIUC alumnus and award-winning staff writer for Tazewell Publications in Morton, who died at an early age in November 1979. Her parents, the late Warren and Doris Robinson, established the contest.

The contest drew 38 entries from Illinois newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or less.

A story about an intriguing property in DeWitt County, "Mystery in Farmer City," took second place. Reporter Bob Holliday of The Pantagraph in Bloomington told the story in the Sept. 9, 2007, issue of a compound that few people in the community of 2,000 have seen from the inside. The property features houses and ornate gardens, and is largely hidden from public view by large gates and fencing, Holiday said. The London attorney who owns the property visits once or twice a year, leaving many townsfolk to wonder about its future. Holliday receives $75 for second place.

"Carmian has arm built from cadaver," a story on Carmi resident Ingrid Ginther by Braden Willis, a reporter for The Carmi Times, placed third. The Nov. 10, 2007, story focuses on Ginther, who was born to Jewish parents and grew up in Germany during Hitler's rise to power. She injured her arm in a fall from a barn loft. Years later, after many surgeries and relocating to Illinois, Ginther was the first in the U.S. to be involved in a procedure where cadaver bones are implanted into healthy tissues to avoid amputation. She is an advocate for organ tissue and body donations.

Willis receives $50 for his third-place finish.

Four stories received honorable mention:

  • "Second -- and third -- chance at life," by Tom Collins, La Salle News Tribune.
  • "Ella Found a Way to Heal," by Paul Swiech, Bloomington Pantagraph.
  • "Playing it as it lies," by Jim Cogdal, La Salle News Tribune.
  • "Moved to help," Tamara Browning, Springfield State Journal-Register.