Echo Allen picked the best time to break 100 for the second time in her career at an 18-hole golf tournament.
But a 98 — not a 99 — was what was required Wednesday for the Evanston sophomore to keep her season alive at the Glenbrook North Regional tournament.
Allen missed out on qualifying for next week’s Illinois High School Association sectional tournament and instead settled for matching her career-best score of 99 while leading the Wildkit girls to their highest regional team finish in team history.
Coach Karilyn Joyce’s team posted a score of 405 — believed to be another best for the program — and placed 6th behind automatic team sectional qualifiers New Trier (301), Loyola Academy (316) and Glenbrook South (326) along with non-qualifiers Glenbrook North (356) and Maine South (383) in the 9-team field.
Evanston counted a 99 by Allen, a 101 by Katie Gemmell, a 102 by Drew Patterson and a 103 by Kimmy Jolie Wednesday at Sportsman’s Country Club in Northbrook.
Evanston’s girls have had only one sectional qualifier — Liz Jolie in 2005 — since Joyce took over the program 23 years ago. What was most remarkable about Allen’s performance was the fact that she’s only played in the No. 5 or No. 6 slots for most of the year in the Wildkit lineup.
The sophomore with the unusual first name — she’s named after her grandmother — separated herself from the rest of the Evanston pack with a solid start in a misty rain over the first few holes in Northbrook.
“I started out on the back 9 and I had a 9 on the second hole,” Allen said. “After that I had 4 pars in a row. It was still raining at that point, and I know it’s a little funny to say, but I play better when it’s raining. I like walking in the rain when I’m not playing, too, and today it cooled me down and helped me keep focused.
“When I finished (one of the first players in the entire field to do so) I had no idea I could make it to sectional. Then one of our captains, Clara Lynk, came over and said you might have a shot. I am a little sad to have missed it by just one shot, because you can always find another shot you might have made.
“It is a big deal for me to break 100 again and I wasn’t necessarily expecting it. I’ve been working really hard to get better and the best thing about today is that I got a chance to represent Evanston and break through. It was a chance for me to do something bigger than I thought I could do as part of the team, and I hope I can do it again next year.”
All six of Joyce’s starters are underclassmen and the taste of success in 2017 might lead to another breakthrough in terms of qualifiers in 2018.
“We ended the season on a great note,” said Joyce after junior Lynk also contributed a season-best 18-hole score. “And I’m glad that all of them are back next year.
“Echo got off to a slow start for us this season, but she hits the ball very well off the tee and she had that long ball working for her today. She’s really gotten into her game at this point.”
Allen’s slow start was partly due to an active summer (backpacking in Tanzania) that didn’t include a chance for her to play any golf.
“I didn’t even think I’d get thrown in with the varsity because I wasn’t up as a freshman,” she pointed out. “This score I shot today will keep me from ever saying ‘oh, I’ll never be able to do anything like qualify for sectional.’
“I’m close now, and I know I can do it.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.