The season ended at the regional tournament like it does every year for the players in the Evanston girls golf program Wednesday at Winnetka Golf Club.
But the experience gained by the current freshmen and sophomores this season signals a brighter future — and perhaps the start of a new era — for the Wildkits.
While senior Morgan Maslauski ended her career with a team-best score of 106, underclassmen who competed for ETHS at the other five positions took another step in their respective careers.
Evanston settled for a 9th place team finish at the Class 2A New Trier Regional with a score of 457, beating out only Hoffman Estates (514) in the 10-team field. New Trier (332), Loyola Academy (336) and Prospect (346) claimed the top three team qualifying spots and earned berths at next week’s sectional.
Back-to-back classes of golfers who have any kind of experience coming into the high school program are still rare at Evanston, but veteran coach Karilyn Joyce, in her 22nd season, hasn’t had this kind of talent to work with since she took over the program.
Joyce can’t wait for next year.
“I told them on the bus coming over here that if you want to be a top golfer, you have to look at the scores of the other teams in our conference because they’re the same ones you’ll see at the regional,” Joyce said. “That’s what they should be shooting for. They should be looking at what numbers it takes to get out of the regional.
“The younger girls are all still inexperienced when it comes to playing in 18-hole tournaments, the mental game and what it takes to play keeping pace. It’s not like playing with your Dad or with a family member. But all of these girls played before they got to high school and now I can see the talent throughout the whole program. This is the most talent I’ve had in 22 years as a coach and they’re the most well-rounded players we’ve had. We definitely have a lot of potential in those freshmen and sophomore classes.”
The veteran coach knows it will take time to catch the New Triers, Glenbrooks and Loyolas who are already established as state powers, not just local teams to beat. Still, the fact that freshmen Katie Gemmell and Drew Patterson competed at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the lineup for most of the season and sophomores Kim Jolie, Clara Lynk and Anna TerMolen claimed spots on the regional tourney team definitely has the arrow pointing “up” for the program.
Another freshman, Echo Allen, earned a medal at the Central Suburban League junior varsity championship meet by firing an 87.
Wednesday, the Wildkits weren’t at their best, counting a 106 by Maslauski, a 116 by Lynk, a 117 by Patterson and a 118 by Jolie. Gemmell added a 119 and TerMolen was next best at 121.
“None of them got off on the tee boxes very well today,” Joyce admitted. “But that’s just because I don’t believe they’re 18-hole (tournament tested, mentally and physically) golfers just yet. They all played here over the weekend and our goal today was just to have better scores today, and they all pretty much did that.
“I see a lot of potential and that has a lot to do with the exposure they’ve gotten from the Girls Play Sports program (founded by ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino and his wife Megan). That program is really helping a lot of the sports at the school and that’s why we’re starting to see a change for the better.”
Patterson is a first-year player who isn’t actually in her first year as a competitor. She took up the game when she was 8 years old and has played competitive golf (including tournaments) for the past two summers.
“Playing today in my first regional was big, and it was more for experience than anything else,” Patterson said. “I wanted to shoot a good score, but there’s a lotta stuff I didn’t know coming into the season, like course management and understanding the game more. I get it now.
“Today my putting was terrible and I had too many 4-putts. But I did have better focus and thought about the game and what I wanted to do more. I still have to work on my short game and on course management for the future.”
Maslauski knows the future is bright when she compares the talent level to what it was when she came onto the high school scene as a freshman.
“I can’t wait to come back next year and watch these girls. Now we have so many good players,” said the senior captain. “There’s already a 180-degree difference from when I started playing as a freshman. They have a lot of skills and they’re really motivated to succeed. I think they’re going to be incredible!
“Today was one of my best scores (after a career-best effort of 99 at the conference meet last week). I didn’t play as well as I did at the conference, but I ended on a good note with a chip and a (3-foot) putt on that final hole.
“We have a lot of good, young talent and it’s exciting to see what they’ll do in the future. The two freshmen didn’t have a lot of experience coming in, but now they’ve got the feel of what high school golf is like.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.