Girls golf: Defending state champ Stevenson looks loaded again
There is some bad news to deliver to the girls high school golf community.
Stevenson is looking even better this season.
The Patriots are loaded for bear as they set out to defend their 2019 Class 2A state title. Even in the COVID-19-ravaged 2020 season that saw postseason play end at the sectional level, Stevenson was spot-on, winning the North Suburban Conference title, plus regional and sectional crowns under coach Emma Degen.
"We have a pretty strong team," said Stevenson senior Emily Duan, in a modest and polite assessment of the Patriots' roster.
"No one really left from last year, we have some good underclassmen and everybody has been practicing a lot this summer. We have a good chance to defend our state championship."
Duan tied for third in the state as a sophomore, while now junior Allie Santos tied for fifth as a freshman on that 2019 Class 2A winner (that shot a 298 final round) and won a Class 2A sectional title last year.
While most teams would be doing cartwheels to have two decorated golfers on their roster, Stevenson is not most teams.
Sophomore Chelsea She averaged 77.5 for 18 last year as a freshman and finished second at the sectional. Megan Lee and Rylie Pryor also are back, plus the team added Duan's promising freshman sister, Allyson.
"We are fortunate to have a lot of returning talent and athletes who have worked hard and played in a lot of tournaments over the summer," Degen said. "I am impressed most with the amount of golf these girls play and how they are constantly improving."
Chelsea She noted having an embarrassment of riches on the roster is a big deal for each golfer individually. "It puts a lot less stress on one individual player's shoulders," explained She, who said Stevenson's new mint-colored golf shirts are something to see.
"It also allows us to relate to each other more. The pressure of doing well is more divided among all of us, and that feels better than if one person had to carry the whole team, especially from an emotional and mental standpoint. We know we can rely on different players on our team and not have to face huge consequences compared to if we had one really good player that had to do well because the team is relying on her. It's a big advantage in high school golf and it's pretty cool that we have that."
Duan said while the pandemic certainly has presented golfing challenges over the last two years, Stevenson has made the most of the situation.
"Putting in the time, especially with everything going on with COVID, is more difficult," she said. "We took advantage of it and did things such as practicing putts and home and working on our swings. We used every chance we could to better ourselves."
Santos added that the Patriots thrive because they understand the nuances of the game. "We all manage the course very well," she said. "Even when we are in trouble, we understand how to save ourselves."
The Patriots also have a secret weapon of sorts in their bags. "It's a fun team," Santos said. "We just went out to eat as a team at Lazy Dog in Vernon Hills. It was nice to see familiar faces. We're all so excited about this season. It's all we talk about."
She added: "Winning is pretty great, but the experience we already have had has been so much fun. It's cool to be back and we are ready to work hard and make some great shots. Our less than other teams because of how close we are. Our pressure is we want to do well for each other."