Can the Evanston girls golf team build on what was described as the best season the program’s ever had in 2018?

Head coach Karilyn Joyce is convinced that they can.

“It’s all about individual improvement, and that’s really what it’s all about every year,” said the veteran coach on the eve of Thursday’s season opener, a scramble event involving 3 other teams. “We have a group of girls who are serious about getting better and, from what I’ve seen so far, there’s something to be excited about. Their (tryout) scores are better, their course management is better and they’re making better decisions on the course.

“I think we can be better than we were last year.”

For the first time in ETHS history, the Wildkits advanced 3 individuals to the sectional tournament in Illinois High School Association postseason play. Two of those golfers — seniors Katie Gemmell and Drew Patterson — are back at the top of the lineup along with another senior, Echo Allen.

Their experience, and the addition to the varsity lineup of talented newcomers Amelie Koecher, Eliana Veon, Maddie Schrantz and Mia Houseworth should make the Kits more competitive in both dual meets and 18-hole tournaments.

Koecher, a freshman, is expected to challenge the long-hitting Gemmell for the No. 1 spot in the varsity lineup and could be one of the most promising first-year players in program history. Joyce, who is entering her 25th year as a coach, said she hasn’t had a more talented freshman.

“We have 3 really good seniors this year and Koecher might be the best freshman we’ve ever had,” the coach pointed out. “Koecher is really good. I’m shocked at how good she is, but when I saw her walking around with Callaway clubs, I thought she might be something special. She’s been playing with Katie (Gemmell) all summer and she’s hitting right there with Katie. She already knows a lot about course management, too.”

Sophomores Veon and Schrantz, along with junior Houseworth, will move up to the varsity level to provide depth for a program that hasn’t offered much in that department until lately.

“These are all girls who have come a long way for us, and you can tell that they’ve been working on stuff over the summer,” added Joyce.

“For the last 2 or 3 years I’ve been trying to get them to hit drivers more, because you can’t compete if you’re just pulling out your 3-wood on every hole. You can’t get it down the fairway consistently if you’re not using your driver, and we have to do that if we want to be better 18-hole players. You need to be good for 18 holes if you want to get out of the regional.”

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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