Top teams: St. Charles East, St. Charles North, West Aurora, Rosary, Geneva, Batavia, Aurora Central Catholic
Projected starters: Aurora Central Catholic: Allison Rednour, jr., Amber Weaver, soph., Caitlin Cerza, fr., Liz Buckley, fr., Deanna Arellano, fr.; Batavia: Lauren Anderson, soph., Sierra McKnee, sr., Jenna Hopphan, sr., Rebecca Haseman, fr., Adriana Cerrate, jr., Candace Eamon, jr.; Geneva: Megan Kelly, sr., Katie Kelly, sr., Mary Clare Novak, soph., Nicole Hassels, soph., Elise Anderson, jr., Megan Rush, jr.; Kaneland: Tori Guyton, soph.; Rosary: Victoria Phipps, jr., Abby Rich, sr., Emily Bakula, jr., Jenna Streich, soph., Kaleigh Ellis, sr., Maddie Heinen, sr.; St. Charles East: Paige Jordan, sr., Jane Noelker, sr., Darby Crane, jr., Courtney Laird, sr., Jordan Thomas, jr., Karina Shah, fr.; St. Charles North: Ariana Furrie, sr., Jordyn McFarlane, sr., Jessica Grill, jr., Sam Scroggin, jr., Maddy Bolz, jr., Alina O'Donnell, soph.; West Aurora: Kara Smith, sr., Jordan Lange, jr., Kayla Vicory, sr., Smo O'Brien, jr., Mackenzie Fabrizius, soph., Alex Robertson, sr.
Scouting report: The beginning of another school year ushers in yet another season of unbridled optimism and excitement as the local girls golf teams begin their second week of competition.
Three of the local programs -- St. Charles East, St. Charles North and West Aurora -- return multiple members of sectional-qualifying squads from the Class AA state series last fall. But the attrition rate at the two area sectionals was quite punitive: only St. Charles senior standouts Furrie -- top 15 -- and Jordan, a supremely athletic player in the mold of former Saints' greats Raechel Edwards and Jenny Neimec, return with state experience.
Abby Luchtenburg, the defending Upstate Eight Conference champion who also made the state cut, elected not to rejoin the Geneva program for her junior season to focus on national tournaments.
The two St. Charles high schools and Waubonsie Valley, which features one of the top underclassmen in the state in sophomore Bing Singhsumalee, have been anointed the teams to watch in the single-division Upstate Eight Conference.
St. Charles East has dedicated its season to the memory of fallen teammate Anna Daley, who succumbed to leukemia last spring.
"Anna was a great example of passion for the game," St. Charles East coach Rod Osborne said. "Anna would want us to go out there and play our best, work at it and keep up the tradition of St. Charles East golf. She would want us to keep going in a positive direction."
Jordan began her senior campaign in impressive fashion by capturing top individual honors at the season-opening Barrington Invitational with a level-par 71 earlier this week. Noelker and Crane also return as battle-hardened competitors for the Saints.
Furrie, meanwhile, belies her diminutive stature with an impressive all-around game, the centerpiece of which is her formidable combination of length and accuracy off the tee.
"(Furrie) loves the individualism of golf but also loves being around the other girls," St. Charles North coach Chris Patrick said. "I think she has the potential to be one of the all-time bests in St. Charles North history."
The North Stars' four-year varsity member is primed for an uncharted campaign after making a surprising future decision.
"I decided I don't think I'm going to be playing golf in college," Furrie said. "I would like to enjoy (college) and not have golf be my main priority. I would like to get top-five at state this year. I think I have a good chance."
With McFarlane as the North Stars' clear-cut second-best player, St. Charles North, like a number of girls programs throughout the western suburbs, seeks dependable third and fourth scores.
"We're going to be very similar to last year," Patrick said. "We're not going to blow teams away, but we're going to be right there."
Geneva and Batavia, the other local Upstate Eight members, have to surmount tremendous voids with the respective Luchtenburg decision and the graduation of former state qualifiers Tara Cullerton and Kayla Lehman.
"As much as (the girls) miss (Luchtenburg) and her (anchor) scores, the girls have shown they are capable of stepping up," Geneva coach Eric Hatczel said. "We don't have anyone who is going to shoot lights out, but based on our nine-hole score against Lake Park (183 on Tuesday) we're could be right about the same as we were last year."
Hatczel will count on the Kellys (no relation) to solidify the Vikings this fall.
Anderson, like Cullerton and Lehman before her, is the No. 1 player for Batavia as an underclassman.
"There is a lot of athletic potential (on our team)," Batavia coach Morgan Connell said. "We have to work on scoring." Though her squad is largely inexperienced at the varsity level, the third-year Batavia coach thinks the Bulldogs' off-season regimen will pay dividends. "That summer work really pays off," Connell said.
West Aurora returns five members from its sectional squad from last fall. In the ever-competitive DuPage Valley Conference, the Blackhawks seek to make inroads against traditional powers Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville North. Smith is the unquestioned senior leader.
"We're trying to figure out what we need to work on," West Aurora coach Chris Soulsby said after twin 18-hole tournaments in Plainfield earlier this week. "This group has worked harder in the off-season than any other group I have had. I think we will settle in as the season goes."
The Suburban Christian Conference does not have a league tournament; both Rosary and Aurora Central Catholic have progress as a central goal.
"We have our fingers crossed," Rosary coach Paul Iwanski said. "Victoria is a good, solid No. 1. Emily and Jenna are strong."
Cliff Pensyl enters his second year at Aurora Central with a five-player team.
"For all of them it's the first time they've been on a golf team," the longtime former East Aurora athletic director said. "I know it's cliché but they're nice girls, and I hope we have fun. Realistically, I hope we keep improving, get our scores down and get better."
Like her decorated older sister Hayley, Tori Guyton continues the trailblazing legacy of her family at Kaneland. A returning sectional qualifier, the younger Guyton is the lone female member of the Knights' boys team this fall.
"I beat 73 boys (at the Sycamore underclass invitational on Tuesday)," said Guyton, who has elevated her game to a new level after winning three summer tournaments. "I would love to play on varsity, but I think there is too much competition. I am very excited to go on with the season."
Key dates: Aug. 22 and 23: St. Charles East and St. Charles North versus Waubonsie Valley; Sept. 1: Homewood-Flossmoor Invitational; Sept. 8: Waukegan Invitational; Sept. 15: Rockford Guilford Invitational; Sept. 20: St. Charles East-St. Charles North-Batavia triangular; Sept. 22, Naperville North Invitational; week of Sept. 24 Conference championships; Sept. 29: Rosary Invitational.
Predicted state champions: Class A, Normal U-High; Class AA: Hinsdale Central