Girls golf: Strokes of genius: Stevenson wins state
In golf, sometimes it takes only one stroke. One stroke of a club to kick-start confidence.
Stevenson sophomore Emily Duan drained a 50-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole during the Class 2A state tournament at Hickory Point Golf Club in Decatur on Friday.
"Which everyone saw," Duan said. "Then when I came in, they (teammates) were like, 'Oh my God, we're only 1 shot behind Barrington.' I was like, 'OK, we got this. Tomorrow's a new day. We can go out and do our thing.' "
In golf, sometimes it takes only one stroke. One stroke to make school history.
Stevenson did that Saturday downstate. Led by Duan's tie-for-third finish (4-over par) and freshman Allie Santos' tie for fifth (5 over), the Patriots captured the first team state championship in the history of their program. Former University of Illinois golfer Stephanie Miller won Class AA state championships for Stevenson in 2010 as a sophomore and in 2012 as a senior.
Thanks to Saturday's score of 298, Stevenson slipped ahead of Barrington, which carded a 300. The Patriots' two-day total of plus-25 601 was just good enough to edge the runner-up Fillies (plus 26), who had a 302 on Friday. Barrington sophomore Mara Janess (3 over) won the individual title by outlasting Glenbrook South junior Maria Perakis in a playoff. Fillies senior Caroline Smith (4 over) tied Duan for third.
Vernon Hills freshman Lexi Schulman (5 over), who owned a share of the lead after Friday, tied Santos, Barrington sophomore Sophia Sulkar and two others for fifth.
Stevenson placed fifth in the state last year and didn't graduate any player in its top six.
"We didn't really have any expectations, especially at the beginning of the season," Patriots senior Joyce Bai said. "We just wanted to play good golf, and then as the season went on we realized we actually had a chance (to win state). There was a little bit of stress and pressure there, but the thing about this team is, you can have a bad day, you can have a terrible day, and everyone else will pick up the slack. You don't have to worry about playing a good round. You just have to worry about your next swing."
Duan and junior Kelly Dong paced Stevenson on Saturday, as each player fired a 73. Santos had a 75, Bai shot a 77, junior Sophia Zhuang added an 80, and senior Julia Yoo tallied an 85.
Dong (plus 8) finished 14th, Zhuang (plus 11) tied for 20th, and Bai (plus 12) tied for 23rd.
"My putting was really good these past two days," said Duan, whose Saturday round included 5 birdies, 4 bogeys and 1 double. "I'm actually really happy with how I played. I had a couple of bad holes today and yesterday, but I was able to push on through."
Stevenson coach Emma Degen waited for the IHSA to post the official results before sharing the news of her team's history-making performance with her golfers.
"All the girls were putting their stuff away on the bus," Degen said. "They kind of already knew.
"I walked on the bus and said, 'Girls, it's official. You're state champs.' They definitely were excited. Their response was a lot of cheers and then, 'Where are we going for dinner?' "
The Ozark House Restaurant in Bloomington was the Patriots' choice to eat. They placed their state championship trophy at their table.
"We talked this morning about how we've got an opportunity to bring a trophy home and which one is it going to be," Degen said. "They went out and got the job done."
The Patriots will graduate Bai and Yoo. Bai emerged as Stevenson's No. 1 player as a freshman, and the influx of talent in the program since her arrival has continued to get better.
"It feels good," Bai said of finishing her high school career with a state title. She does not plan to play competitive golf in college. "I've been thinking about this day for a long time. There was pressure to do well because it's the last big competitive golf event that I'll ever be a part of in my life. I'm glad that the team got this."