EFFINGHAM – Balanced.
That would be a great word to describe the Effingham St. Anthony girls golf team, which will be playing today and Saturday at the IHSA Class 1A State Tournament at Red Tail Run Golf Club in Decatur.
When a player (or two) runs into a rough patch by literally hitting it into the rough, another player will simultaneously pick up their own game to counteract it.
The result is a team with a strong foundation that can weather a storm like the one St. Anthony faced in its 1A Sectional in Alton on Monday.
“I knew we were facing a very tough draw to get out of our sectional and we would need our players to step up to make it back to state,” St. Anthony coach Emily Konrad said.
The girls didn’t have a lot of experience on Spencer T. Olin Golf Course in Alton and the team was having some struggles when they made it onto the green.
"We were having a lot of problems with our short game which has been the weakest point of our play this year and we were having a tough time on Monday," Konrad said. "But Macy Ludwig played great and made up the difference for us.
"A (team score of) 358 wasn't our best round and we will have to do better at state."
Ludgwig, a freshman, shot a team-best 85 to lead the Bulldogs to a second-straight appearance in the state tournament.
Ludwig’s brother, Luke, led St. Anthony’s boys team to the state tournament with a round of 77.
“Effingham has such a strong young golfing program with the local golf course that you can have these talented young players,” Konrad added.
The team is anchored by two upperclassmen, Clare McHugh and Ava Wegman, both juniors who have the experience with dealing the pressure a state tournament brings.
“Clare and Ava have been our leaders this year and they both have more experience with Red Tail Run than our sectional course, so our team will be felling much more confident,” Konrad said.
Although they’ve made it to state, the hard work isn’t over for the St. Anthony girls.
Making it back to state fulfills the team’s goal for the season.
“We lost just one player from last year’s state team, so our goal was definitely to get back to state,” Konrad said.
Wolf ready for state
Mattoon's Kira Wolf had an eventful 2A state tournament last season as a freshman with a sixth-place finish. Wolf shot a two-day total of 146 to tie for sixth, but she was only five strokes off from first place. Wolf thinks she is golfing better this season as she goes into the state tournament.
"I am hitting the ball really good and feeling confident that I can shoot a couple of good scores to be at the top," Wolf said. "That would be a great honor to be first, but I would be happy with a top-10 finish and that's hard to do because there's quite a few good girls. I was hitting really well last year, but I feel like my iron play is very accurate and my drives have been really, really good, so I am excited to to see what I can shoot."
Mattoon coach Natalie Ambuehl thinks Wolf has a good chance of being in contention for a top-five spot, even higher.
"She can win it. Just speaking with her, her spirits are good and her confidence is there," Ambuehl said. "Her history shows she is quite capable of playing with any other girl there. She's worked too hard for too long to not reap the benefits at the end. This is it and you find out what you are made of and I think that she's proven what she is made of."