Girls golf: Another team triumph for Bai, Stevenson
Despite what she considered a "blowup hole," even though a double bogey wasn't going to ruin anybody's round in Wednesday's North Suburban Conference tournament, Joyce Bai didn't have a bad day on the golf course.
Neither did her teammate Kelly Dong. Neither did any of Stevenson's seven players.
"We can all have a bad day," Bai said. "So (our depth means) less pressure. It's been a great year."
Stevenson's sensational season continued at Bonnie Brook Golf Course in Waukegan, as the Patriots won the conference tournament going away with a 326. Only 11 strokes separated the next four teams, as runner-up Libertyville (367) edged Warren (370), while Lake Zurich (374) and Lake Forest (377) rounded out the top five.
Bai earned medalist honors with a 76, one shot better than the freshman Dong. They were the only golfers to break 80. It was the first time this season that Bai won a tournament.
"It wasn't on the top of my mind," said Bai, who finished one shot behind medalist Dong in the recent Deerfield invite. "But if you would have asked me, I would have known."
Stevenson went undefeated during the dual-meet season for the first time since 2008, and while the sophomore Bai has anchored the No.-1 spot in the lineup for the second year in a row, the Patriots haven't relied on her to shoot a low number every time out.
"We just have depth," Stevenson coach Emma Degen said. "If my (No.) 1 has a bad day, my (No.) 6 is scoring. They all can rely on each other."
In dethroning three-time NSC champ Libertyville, Stevenson got solid rounds from everyone who teed it up. The 1-2 finish by Bai and Dong was complemented by senior Olivia Stomberg's 86 (third) and senior Katie Hannahs' 87 (fourth). The Patriots didn't count sophomore Julia Yoo's 88 (seventh), freshman Sophia Zhuang's 89 (11th) and senior Gina Shanley's 93 (16th), but all three girls earned an all-conference medal.
"This year we have so many really good freshmen," Bai said. "No senior from varsity last year left so all of our players got much better, and we were able to improve a lot."
The long-hitting Bai counted one birdie, sinking a 3-foot putt on the par-5 14th. She doubled the par-4 18th after an errant drive.
Dong's lone birdie came on the ninth, when she sank a 20-footer. She doesn't consider herself long off the tee.
"I have to get up-and-downs a lot to save par," Dong said with a laugh.
"Her short game," Bai said of her teammate, "is killer."
Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen called his team's performance "fantastic." The Wildcats started the season by shooting a 216 for nine holes against Lake Forest. They finished dual-meet action by carding a 175 against Antioch this week. They entered the NSC tournament in a three-way tie for third place with Lake Forest and Lake Zurich.
Junior Maggie Burnetti led Libertyville with an 89 (12th). The Wildcats' other contributors included junior Katie Zurek (91, 14th), senior Lauren Kavathas (93, 17th) senior Colby Roberts (94, 18th) and sophomore Payton Debruler (94, 19th).
"This has been a really rewarding season," Pedersen said. "No one really gave us much respect coming into the season with how much we lost (to graduation). ... Steady wins the race, right? They just work on their games, and when they're at practice they try really hard and they're focused, and they keep getting better and better."
Sophomore Chloe Morrissey paced third-place Warren with an 88 (ninth), while Sydney Bornhorst (91, 13th) and Annika Johnson (92, 15th) also medaled for the Blue Devils.
Lake Zurich's medal winners were freshman Bryana Hogan (88, eighth) and sisters Kelsey Kee (88, sixth) and Alyson Kee (95, 20th).
Lake Forest's Erin Shalala (87) and Isabella Martino (89) placed fifth and 10th, respectively.
As great a season as Stevenson has enjoyed, the Patriots could be even better in the future. Both Bai and Dong were touting eighth-grader Emily Duan.
"She's better than all of us," Dong said. "She's so good."