By Kyle Daubs
The numbers don’t lie.
Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin can play golf.
And Charleston head coach Todd Keating is a science teacher, so numbers are right in his wheelhouse.
That’s why he believes Sacred Heart Griffin should win Thursday’s Class 1A sectional at The Rail Golf Course.
“Sacred-Heart Griffin has to be the favorite,” said Keating. “Their regional score is 21 strokes better than any other team coming into the sectional. That’s quite a difference.”
The Cyclones enter the Class 1A Rochester Sectional as the presumed favorites to win the title. Their team score of 333 at Lakeshore Golf Course is significantly ahead of Quincy Notre Dame’s 354.
“In looking at the other teams that qualified for our Sectional, I would say that we are the favorites,” said Rochester coach Bill Marriott Jr. “That is not to say that it will be easy. There are some good teams coming to the sectional this year. With that being said, we are playing a course that is familiar to us and that we have had a lot of rounds over over the past few years. That along with we are playing our best golf of the year makes me very hopeful.”
Sacred Heart is led by senior Sofia Lewis, who carded a score of 80. She is followed by Addie Eades (83) and All-Conference sophomore Molly Mariott (84). Senor Elena White capped off the team’s all-80 performance with a score of 86.
“The girls played great at Regionals,” said Mariott Jr. “We had not been playing our best golf this year. I think we were in the same boat as a lot of other teams. We were having a tough time getting motivated with no state tournament this year. After the Conference tournament, we made some changes to our focus at practice. I think the team was disappointed in how we played and they really took ownership of that and came through when they needed to win Regionals.”
On the other side, Charleston enters the field with the worst overall regional team score. Their score of 377 at Charleston Country Club was 15 strokes ahead of runner-up Paris, but in order to be considered a top team at the sectional, Keating knows his team will have to play better.
“My girls are driven to play the best golf they can, even in the little competitions we do in practice,” said Keating. “Their self-motivation and desire to help each other win will be enough for them to do their best. We have talked several times this year about the importance of keeping your head in the game, even when it is difficult, in order to serve the team. It’s a mistake to think of golf as simply an individual sport; these girls understand that everybody plays a part in our performance.”
Quincy Notre Dame’s team score ranks second after the team fired a 354 at Westview Golf Course. The team is led by three sophomores – Hana Knuffman (80), Blair Eftink (87) and Abbey Schreacke (91).
Champaign St. Thomas More is just ahead of the Lady Trojans for third, finishing with a score of 368 at Shewani Country Club. Senior Mia Kirby (85) and junior Brook Erhard (86) led that charge.
In a traditional sectional format, the top three teams would qualify for state.
“My team played their averages for the most part,” said Keating. “One of my golfers finished a bit below her average, and one was a little higher than her average. It all worked out for the best because we have a very solid team with a lot of depth. If a few of them shoot well next week that could put us into contention for third place overall. Of course, anything is possible.”
Jacksonville’s Addie Dobson comes in with the best overall score of 75, followed by Williamsville’s Faith Davis (76), Monticello’s Ashley Long (77), and Watseka’s Natalie Schroeder (77).
Davis, though, will play on her home course.
“I know there are a couple of players she is looking forward to playing against, but I definitely think she is in contention to win the sectional at the Rail,” said Williamsville coach Darcy O’Connor. “Faith does a great job at setting goals for herself, and since there is no state to look forward to this year, I know she is going to really want to go out and do well in this sectional. It is also great that it is at our home course that she knows well and it’s a great place for her to finish her high school career.”
Nobody can count out Charleston’s Hannah Harpster, who finished with a score of 81. The senior will play her final golf match on Tuesday.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be no state match this season. Last year, Harpster missed state due to a knee injury at the end of the year, which makes this end somewhat sour.
“I feel bad for the girls because we are such a solid, consistent team this year,” said Keating. “It’s most unfortunate for Hannah. She has had a long road coming back from a knee injury and this is her first year feeling better. I was hoping she would have a chance to go to state before she graduates, but that’s not going to happen.”
As for other potential state team qualifiers, they feel a similar pain.
“I think everyone is disappointed that there is not going to be a state tournament this year,” said Marriott Jr. “I think if the people making the ultimate decision would come to see a golf tournament in person and see how you can play while social distancing, they would have tried harder to have a state finals. Unfortunately, I doubt that happened. In the end, you just go out there and try to win every event you can. The rest will take care of itself.”