Todd Keating feels that this is validation.
Last year, golf was one of the traditional fall sports to keep its season intact. The problem was that there was no true state tournament. The sport conducted a Regional and Sectional, but teams that would have qualified for the state were not given the notice that they truly made state.
Last year, Charleston qualified for the state tournament unofficially. This time, the “Q” will be on the IHSA record for Charleston after the Trojans finished second as a team in the Auburn Class 1A Sectional.
“It is extremely important to us as a team,” said coach Todd Keating. “Last year, we earned a spot at the State Tournament but were denied our chance to play due to COVID restrictions not allowing the Tournament to be played. I feel it is an important validation for the girls to participate this year.”
Charleston was coming off a performance that was not their best. The team placed second, breaking a nine-year streak of winning a Regional Championship, and only beat out rival Mattoon by 12 strokes.
Heading into the Sectional, senior Stacey Zerbst said the team just needed to keep their attitude positive.
“We still went out to practice the day after,” said Zerbst. “Along with going to the course ahead of time to get insight. Having a positive attitude with the team also helps keep momentum.”
That momentum carried over into the sectional tournament as Charleston placed second by just one stroke over Quincy Notre Dame to guarantee their spot in the state tournament. After leading the Trojans at the Regional with the top score, Delainey Meister fired a 95 for the third-best score.
Zerbst rebounded with a team-low 88, while Madeline Sanders was second-best for the second straight match.
“In my opinion this was one of the toughest courses we have played this year,” said senior Taryn Pearson, who tied Rileigh Babbs for the fourth-best score on the team with 98. “We posted some higher scores than we normally do. I believe our best 18 hole round score this year was a 364 (at Red Tail Run) and I know we can do better. I’m very proud of Stacey Zerbst and Madeline Sanders showing during sectionals. Their lower scores definitely helped advance the team to state.”
Pearson, who was an All-Apollo selection last year, said that making it to state this season had extra meaning since Zerbst, Pearson, and Babbs were all finishing out their final year of golf.
“Making state is a great accomplishment in my book, especially with it being me, Rileigh, and Stacey’s senior year,” said Pearson. “All three of us have been together since middle school. Our team this year has worked very hard to get to this point and we deserve this opportunity. I also think it’s a nice opportunity to prove what we can do for the last time. Last year we qualified for state, but sadly there was not one due to covid. Therefore, I am very glad we made it this year.”
The senior trio began playing golf at Charleston Middle School, which is why it should also come as no shock that legendary and longtime golf coach Stan Adkins had a hand in helping the team.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ongoing dedication of Stan Adkins to the junior golf program,” said Keating. “Most of my current team was introduced to competitive golf by Stan back in middle school, and I think that has had a huge, long-lasting impact on the high school program. The changes during their high school years have been subtle from year-to-year, but over time the changes have been dramatic.”
The three seniors have been consistent all season, helping the Trojans win their second straight Apollo Conference championship and what will be their second straight trip to the state tournament if you count last year’s standings.
“The greatest strength of this team is our depth,” said Keating. “We have five golfers (three of which are our seniors) who regularly score in or below the mid-90’s for eighteen holes. That kind of depth is the reason for our success. Most teams are not capable of posting those scores, which is why we qualified for the state tournament. They will be sorely missed next year, both for their scores and their personalities. They are all very nice kids and coaching them has been rewarding and a lot of fun.”
Fun will come in bunches on Friday when the Trojans tee-off with hopes of making it to Saturday.
“I think a good goal for the team is to go out, have fun, and play how we know how to,” said Pearson. “Even if we don’t make it out on Friday, it is a great accomplishment to even make it to the state series and the whole team should be proud of the season we had this year.”
It will be the one time this year that the team can focus on their individual scores.
“For the team to do its best, we will need to focus on our strong points, for now, the most,” said Zerbst. “Thinking about our own scores and shooting the best we can for ourselves will help the team.”