Girls golf: Geneva tops defending state champs for 1st regional crown
Geneva sophomore Reese Clark picked quite a time to shoot the round of her life.
Clark fired an even-par 72 in difficult conditions Thursday at the Class 2A Huntley regional at Blackstone Golf Course in Marengo, leading the Vikings to the first regional championship in school history and earning herself individual medalist.
"It's my first time shooting par," Clark said. "I've been close but today was the day. It was just how comfortable I was hitting my shots. Over the ball I felt ready to hit the shot. I was confident and I think that's what got me to 72. It was a really, really fun round."
Clark shot 2-over on the front and 2-under on the back. She offset 3 bogeys with 3 birdies.
Geneva defeated DuKane Conference rival and defending state champion St. Charles North. The North Stars finished 19 strokes back at 341 and also qualified for next Monday's Mt. Prospect sectional at Mt. Prospect Golf Course along with third-place Huntley (351).
"It's super fun to be part of that and I think it shows at sectionals we can make it to state," Clark said. "Everyone was focused not on beating them (SCN) but on Geneva and our team and I think that's why we won."
Fellow Geneva sophomore Kaylin Johnson finished third overall with a 76. Junior Colleen Rutledge (86) and senior Avery Frick (88) completed Geneva's four counting scores.
Vikings coach Doug Ross liked his team's chances coming into Thursday after seeing how well they played on the same course earlier this season at the Huntley Invitational.
"They are familiar with the course, just a matter of working out some of the bugs that haunted them in the past," Ross said. "I saw improvement in the last tournament we played here. It's all about team. We always have a different girl providing our fourth scorecard. They all want to contribute."
St. Charles North graduated four Division I golfers from last year's state champs. Two state golfers return including sophomore Catie Nekola who came in second to Clark with a 75.
Brooke Bayless (82), Isabella Spinazze (89) and Sophia Evers (95) made up the North Stars' top four.
"I think we left a few shots out there for sure," North Stars coach Irish Whalen said. "But as the day went on the rain picked up, the wind kicked in, you have some tough conditions to play through."
Nekola's round certainly was a highlight for the North Stars.
"That's fantastic," Whalen said. "She played really strongly from start to finish. She didn't worry about the elements and played really, really well. She took what the golf course gave today."
A week after winning its first conference championship, Huntley continued a memorable season by qualifying for sectionals. The balanced Red Raiders carded four scores within six shots of each other -- senior Katie Matustik and junior Molly Baker at 86, junior Lorelei Oomens with an 87 and junior Nina Shaffer's 92.
"That's (third place) what our goal was," Huntley coach Ann Christiansen said. "We played our best today. It was hard out there today. We're real excited and hoping when we get to sectionals we can get one or two to state we'll be really happy. It just gives us another chance to keep working hard."
St. Charles East (357) missed a top-three finish by six shots and was followed by Burlington Central (365), Jacobs (387), Hampshire (405), South Elgin (419), Kaneland (427) and Dundee-Crown (536).
The Saints did qualify two individuals, Paige Breslin (81) and Sarah Podjacek (85).
Jacobs and Burlington Central also qualified a pair of individuals. For the Golden Eagles, senior Lauren Kempf shot 81 and senior Roslyn Leitner 89.
It's the second straight year Kempf is moving on to sectionals. She finished her round sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 with her teammates cheering her on.
"I was happy to finish strong," Kempf said. "I felt pretty confident going in. I had my game going. I knew driver wasn't the play on every single hole. I knew I had to hit a lot of 3-woods and hybrids a lot. Ball striking and putting was going to be key today."
Juniors Emily Koh (81) and Kelsey O'Connor (94) advanced for Burlington Central.
"The first nine holes was a little iffy but I sort of got back on track on the back nine," Koh said. "I was hoping we could move on as a team but I'm glad that at least two of us get to move on."
Kaneland freshman Katharine Marshall (82), South Elgin junior Gabby Garza (88) and Hampshire senior Gianna Farinella (94) also will play at Monday's sectional.