There are some obvious — and not so obvious — ways to measure just how much experience helped the returning players for the Evanston Township High School girls golf program last fall.
Head coach Karilyn Joyce welcomes back 5 of her top 6 players from a year ago, and none of them are seniors yet. It’s a group of sophomores and juniors that entered high school with experience — a rarity at ETHS — and gained even more last fall even though the Wildkits still ranked at the bottom of the Central Suburban League.
Better knowledge of area courses they’ll compete on will certainly help a more experienced Kit lineup with something like course management. Balancing after-school dual meets with study time shouldn’t be as difficult. And the ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in your own game can help a golfer of any age.
But when Joyce, who is entering her 23rd season as Evanston’s head coach, measures just how much the experience will help this year, she’ll look at the 18-hole scores players like Katie Gemmell, Drew Patterson, Kim Jolie, Clara Lynk, Anna TerMolen and Echo Allen put up this fall.
Eighteen-hole tournaments at the end of the season will determine the postseason fate of all of those individuals, and the Wildkit girls will participate in three big tournaments this year. The Kits open Tuesday with a triangular meet versus Montini and Chicago Taft at the ETHS home course — Canal Shores — and then have tournament dates on Thursday at Huntley and Saturday at Hersey.
Evanston will also join the field at the Antioch Invitational for the first time on August 26th, and will participate at the Deerfield Invitational — previously hosted by Highland Park — on Sept. 16.
Joyce believes the entire squad has made enough progress to add another invite to the list of challenges facing ETHS this fall, including dual meets against area powers New Trier, Glenbrook South and Loyola Academy. For Evanston to take the next step and advance individuals or a full team out of the Illinois High School Association regional, the Kits need to be tourney-tested in August and September.
Eighteen hole tournaments offer both mental and physical challenges that even experienced girls don’t often take on during the summer season. Ask Joyce and she’ll tell you it’s not the same as golfing with your BFFs in the summer.
“I want to see what happens when we play in those tournaments, and when they’re playing in a foursome with a group of girls they don’t know, not playing with their friends,” said the veteran coach. “It’s a totally different experience. It really hurts you if you haven’t played on bigger courses and you’re up against girls who are aggressive and aren’t out there talking a lot, they’re just ready to go.
“Our expectation is to place higher in all of the tournaments we’re in this year. I really think we can get at least one or two girls out of the regional this year.”
Patterson and Gemmell ranked as Evanston’s 1-2 playing punch a year ago and should hold down those two spots again this fall. Gemmell’s summer rounds were limited because she devoted more time to her first love, competing in horse shows, so Patterson will likely claim the No. 1 spot to start the season.
Lynk, a junior, might be the most improved player in the program compared to last year.
“Clara has really done a lot in the offseason, and it shows,” Joyce praised. “She’s much better off the tee than she was last year.
“During our tryouts all of them shot under 50 at Willow Hill, and that was great. That was a huge accomplishment and this is the best preseason we’ve ever had. I’m really looking forward to the season.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.