After finishing her round and heading toward the clubhouse, Prospect junior Noreen Caporusso was surrounded by her teammates eagerly awaiting to hear her score.
"I was really kind of nervous because they didn't seem real excited," Caporusso said. "In fact, some seemed kind of sad. They were asking 'What did you shoot? What did you shoot?!' "
Caporusso gave the right answer.
"When I said 74, they all cheered," she said.
That's because they knew Caporusso's score, tops in the field over runner-up Stephanie Miller of Stevenson (75), would carry them to the championship of the Class AA Carmel girls golf sectional on a windy Tuesday at Bonnie Brook Golf Course in Waukegan.
Defending Class AA state champ Prospect finished with a score of 329 ahead of New Trier (334) and Maine South (341). Those three teams will take their clubs to Friday's state finals at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.
"Noreen carried a very heavy bag today," said coach Jim Hamann, who directed the Knights to their second sectional crown in three years. "It had all her clubs, golf balls -- and her teammates. She carried us today."
Caporusso fired an even-par 36 on the front nine, including back-to-back birdies on No. 4 and 5. She also hit a nifty approach shot from behind trees on No. 15, landing the ball just before the fringe and then converting a nice two-putt for par.
"I struggled at the beginning of the season but I've kind of found a little rhythm now," Caporusso said. " It was nice to play well in these conditions."
The Knights' other scores that counted were by Ally Scaccia (83), Isabella Flack (84), Kiley Walsh (88) and Noelle Johnston (88).
"The front nine was good, but I kind of fell apart on the back," said Scaccia, who recorded 3 birdies. "The key was to hit it low so the wind wouldn't take it. Some of the holes going into the wind played long. Usually at state, it's windy and we'll have to play the best we can."
Miller, a senior who won the 2010 state crown, and third-place finisher Dana Gattone (79) of St. Viator will be making their fourth and third trips to the state finals, respectively.
"I was upset with my decision making," Miller said of her 3-over par round. "There were a couple of shots I hit where I said 'Why did I choose to do that?' "
Gattone said she was just hoping to advance, considering the windy conditions.
"I was quite happy to take third place on a day like this," she said. "All summer I worked real hard so to be one of three players in the 70s is a great accomplishment."
Other area individuals qualifiers were Buffalo Grove's Grace Kil, who tied for fourth at state last season, Fremd's Dorothy Feng (84) and Elk Grove's Katie DeMeulenaere (84).
Feng and DeMeulenaere qualified by surviving two playoff holes (No. 10 and 11) against two other players as darkness settled in.
"I was squinting to see my ball on line when I putted," said Feng, who 4-putted No. 11 the first time she played it but then 2-putted for par in the playoff.
Grens coach Jon Rowley said DeMeulenaere may be the first Elk Grove golfer -- male or female -- to earn a berth in the state finals.
The senior bogeyed No. 11 the first time before parring it for her berth to Decatur.
"I decided to use my driver (for the playoff hole)," she said. "I said 'Go big or go home.' "
Her ball landed in a sand bunker but she used a full lob wedge to get to within 20 feet and then 2-putted for the par.
One of the best shots of the day came on hole No. 7 when Maine West senior Natalie Kozenczak used her wedge to sink a 50-foot chip for par.
Caporusso continued to make some of her best shots of the season the last two weeks. She fired a school-record 70 to finish second to Miller (67) in the Barrington regional at Bonnie Dundee in Carpentersville.
"I can't do it without my teammates," Caporusso said. "They're always there for me and I can count on them for anything, not just golf."
"Noreen deserves all the recognition in the world," said Hamann, whose brother Jeff guided Maine South to its first state berth as a team. "She has always been one of the most talented golfers in the state. And she has heard it over and over from myself and her other teachers. Now she is starting to believe it. And her best golf is yet to come."
Hamann believes Caporusso's 74 was even more impressive than it looked because of the wind gusts of 30 to 40 miles per hour.
"I thought par was more like 77," Hamann said. "Ally (Scaccia) had a great front nine. She will be the first to tell you she wasn't happy with her back nine. She has been rock solid all season and will play great at state.
"And Isabella (Flack) was big for us in the back nine (40 after 44). She's playing with a lot of confidence and playing her role on the team very well
"We just wanted to play our best and get through the sectional because I know the girls want to play well at state. We love that golf course."