Golf: Clark, Nekola have symbolic finish at state golf finals
Since first arriving on the local girls golf scene as freshmen three years ago, Catie Nekola and Reese Clark have never seemed to avoid comparisons.
Nekola, the last link to the historic St. Charles North 2018 Class 2A state-championship unit, and Clark, who led Geneva to its first team state appearance the following year at the Hickory Point Golf Course in Forsyth, closed out their careers Saturday on the second day of the state finals slightly north of Decatur.
Clark was seemingly in a runaway position after threatening the first-day lead Friday with a 1-under 71 in her final personal showdown against Nekola.
But Nekola, like Clark for the Vikings, was playing as an at-large contender for the North Stars.
Nekola made the still-controversial 18-hole cut on the number with her 8-over 80.
Clark had the slenderest of cushions -- one shot over three players -- as she began her turn.
Nekola, however, stormed out of nowhere with four birdies on her outward-nine 32.
By the time the two arch-competitors -- who happen to be quite close off the course -- signed their final scorecard, they had matching two-day totals of 147.
Michigan-bound Barrington senior Mara Janess had a true daily double as the individual champion at 3-under 141 who also happened to anchor the Fillies' team state-title total of 595.
Clark and Nekola, along with Hinsdale Central prized freshman Elyssa Abdullah, settled for a three-way fourth-place tie.
"I really wasn't aware I was in the lead (as late as No. 11)," Clark said. "I had a double (bogey) on (No.) 12. I wasn't too happy with that. The next hole I didn't hit the right club. I had three bad holes in a row that caused me to lose the lead that I didn't even know I had."
Clark would record one final birdie on her career for a second-round 76.
Nekola finished with a red number on five total holes to frame her season-best 67.
"I was really happy for her," Clark said of Nekola. "She came back and played really well. It's not always easy playing these (types of) events after a bad start."
St. Charles East cost Nekola and her St. Charles North teammates the last spot out of the Belvidere sectional on Monday. But the Saints were eliminated from team competition with their combined play on Friday.
Emily Charles and Ellla Tassone were the Saints' only players to get a second chance. The former had a 79 and 87 to lead St. Charles East.
Kaneland junior Katharine Marshall flirted with joining Clark and Nekola for all-state status -- a top-10 was required -- before settling with a tie for 14th with her two respective rounds of 74 and 76.
At the single-A tournament in Decatur proper, Emmy Hollarbush, a North Aurora resident, paced St. Francis' eighth-place result with an 80 to augment her first-round 77.
Hollarbush finished 22nd overall.
At the Class 3A boys tournament, Batavia junior Gavin Newkirk showed his loss at the Glenbard West sectional in a two-hole playoff for medalist honors was not an aberration.
Newkirk was one of 13 players to shoot in the red at the famed Arnold Palmer-layout the Den at Fox Creek on Friday in Bloomington. But the Bulldogs' standout had to settle for a tie for 17th with his second-day 76 (147).
On the Illinois State University Weibring Course in Normal, Tyson Malak and Josh Pehl restored the long-standing rivalry between Burlington Central and Kaneland.
Malak, a Central senior, and Pehl, also a senior for the Knights, had matching 5-over totals of 147 to finish in a deadlock for 13th.
"I didn't change much of my mindset," Malak said after a first-day 72. "I shot a few shots higher, but it was still a solid score."
Pehl offered rounds of 73 and 74.