URBANA — St. Teresa’s Hayley Rogers was in the clubhouse early with an 87 and figured that score would be enough to advance to state as more golfers finished in the windy conditions Tuesday at the Class 1A Champaign St. Thomas More Sectional at Stone Creek Golf Club.
Eisenhower’s Savannah Myers was one of the later golfers to finish and didn’t feel as good about her 90 until she saw that the other scores were mostly in the triple digits.
Then there was Mount Zion’s Ashley Miller. She was consigned to her fate as a non-qualifier after carding a 93 at Stone Creek — 11 strokes worse than the 82 that earned her medalist honors at last week’s regional at Hickory Point Golf club. The Braves’ sophomore had shed her golf shoes and jacket and put away her clubs
But her day wasn’t quite finished.
Miller’s 93 was tied for the 10th best individual score — not including golfers from the top three qualifying teams — and meant she still had a shot at state. But she’d have to do it in a playoff and in the dark.
Miller won the playoff on the first hole with no preparation and after a mad dash to grab her clubs from the trunk of her dad’s car, joining Rogers, Myers and Charleston’s Maddy Burgett as state qualifiers. The Class 1A state tournament starts Friday morning at Red Tail Run Golf Course.
“It feels really good,” Miller said. “I got a better score in the dark with rushing and all that than I did during the day. That makes me feel even better.”
Miller was first off the tee with a good drive into the right rough, but with a clean shot back to the fairway. Her opponent, Peru St. Bede’s Barbi Prokup was short and right off the tee and hit into a stand of trees on her second shot. Another short shot just past a fairway bunker from Prokup was her undoing.
“I was really trying to,” Miller said about focusing on her own game while Prokup struggled. “I heard her (crying) in the background after she hit her shot. It made me really feel bad, and I thought it really wasn’t fair because we couldn’t see anything. It was pitch black. I didn’t really think it was fair how they did it.”
Finishing a round in that kind of darkness was a first for Miller. Mount Zion coach Bonnie Holloway hadn’t seen anything like that either.
“I’ve seen playoffs before but never in the dark,” Holloway said. “(Miller) had a tough day today. She made it by the skin of her teeth. This was the ultimate pressure.”
The one-hole playoff, though, was unnecessary pressure. Miller said she wouldn’t have even been in that position except for a penalty stroke earlier in her round.
“I had a penalty on me because in a bunker I got mad at a shot and slammed my club in the bunker and my ball was still in there,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been in that playoff. I just want to have a better attitude — to know that I can’t fix it, so don’t throw a fit.”
Rogers was in the early running for medalist with her 87 but figured that score wouldn’t hold up. She said an eight on the 10th hole and a somewhat unruly driver cost her a few strokes.
“Coming in, I didn’t think that I played very well, but seeing everybody else’s scores I played pretty decent considering,” Rogers said.
“She’s improved quite a bit throughout the year with her consistency,” St. Teresa coach Tom Noonan said about Rogers. “She had a couple of borderline shots and had one bad hole in her round, but she didn’t let it bother her. She came back strong and had a nice series of pars on the back.”
Myers had some of the same feelings as Rogers but was even more unsure of her standing. She said she was nervous her 90 wouldn’t be good enough and that tackling the wind that ripped through Stone Creek was a challenge.
“Three years of not making it and finally getting to state is awesome,” the Panthers’ senior said. “The wind was so bad. If it’s a crosswind, you have to aim far right or far left. The wind was crazy.”
St. Teresa finished with a team score of 411 and in fifth place after winning the Mount Zion Regional last week and not fielding a girls-only team a year ago. Jess Schuerman shot a 94, Ann Duncan had a 95 and Maranda Archer’s 135 rounded out the Bulldogs’ scoring.
Kankakee Bishop McNamara won the sectional title with a team score of 370. Mahomet-Seymour and Prairie Central also qualified for state as teams, while Charleston was sixth with a 423 and Mount Zion shot a 429 for seventh.
Prairie Central senior Jackie Duffy earned individual medalist honors with an 83.
No. 3 was a doozy
The third hole at Stone Creek doesn’t look like much of a challenge. The par-3 layout is ranked the 13th toughest on the course mainly because golfers have to carry water off the tee. The 30 mph winds whipping through the course upped the difficulty level Tuesday.
Hitting into the wind or a shifting crosswind directing wayward balls back toward the water derailed several rounds. The lack of a drop zone, making girls continue to hit off the tee or at the front of the tee box on the ground, led to some serious logjams. So No. 3 not only attributed to the high scoring, but also the extremely long rounds closer to six hours than four.
“Most of the time, with tournament play, there’ll be a drop zone just for pace of play,” Noonan said. “Today it was marked as a water hazard, and that made it a little more difficult for some girls. It played more like 200 (yards) with the wind.”
Rogers and Myers, however, both made par on the third hole.
“It was 142 yards uphill into the wind probably at least 20 yards,” Rogers said. “I had to hit 4-iron. Yeah, 4-iron from 142 yards. It was interesting.”
“When I played my practice round, the red tees were over the water like a pitching wedge shot,” Myers said. “But it was way far back (Tuesday), so it was just a 9-wood over to the edge of the green.”
Golf is different from nearly every other competitive sport in the fact golfers call penalties on themselves. Sure, tournament managers are on hand to clarify a ruling, but from hole-to-hole, calling penalties is on the players.
Miller’s penalty for grounding her club in a hazard was self-assessed. She might have let the moment get away from her after a bad shot, but she owned up to the mistake and ultimately made up for it with her playoff win to qualify for state.
Fielding a team
St. Teresa didn’t even have a girls team a year ago. Rogers, Schuerman and Duncan all played during the regular season on the boys team last season, but Archer picking up golf for the first time as a senior let the Bulldogs compete as a team this year.
“For a school that it’s their first year in quite some time of having a girls golf team, I’m proud of how our girls competed finishing fifth against some schools with close to 1,000 students,” Noonan said.
At Stone Creek Golf Club, Urbana
*1. Kankakee Bishop McNamara 370; *2. Mahomet-Seymour 384; *3. Prairie Central 397; 4. Bloomington Central Catholic 407; 5. St. Teresa 411; 6. Charleston 423; 7. Mount Zion 429; 8. Beecher 455; 9. LeRoy 455; 10. Putnam County 457; 11. Downs Tri-Valley 467; 12. El Paso-Gridley 489
Jackie Duffy, Prairie Central, 83
Area advancing individuals
Hayley Rogers, St. Teresa, 87; Savannah Myers, Eisenhower, 90; Maddy Burgett, Charleston, 91; Ashley Miller, Mount Zion, 93
Other St. Teresa results: Jess Schuerman 94; Ann Duncan 95; Maranda Archer, 135
Other Charleston results: Morgan Sherwood 100; Elenor Methven 108; Ian Fuller-Moore 124; Lynnsey Veach 141; Abby Youngblood 146
Other Mount Zion results: Claire Demirjian 108; Eizabeth Bird 111; Jessica Ames 117; Katie Bowman 146
Monticello results: Evelyn Brand 96
Okaw Valley results: Paige Harlin 98
Pana results: Hannah Miller 98; Hannah Michael 124
LSA results: Paige Galka 131
Sullivan results: Emalee Hortenstine 118
Tuscola results: Sydney Murray 102; Annie Heinz 113; Taylor Reifstack 127