ALGONQUIN – The golf course was “unbearable,” according to Joliet Catholic Academy coach Kathy Major. As Monday’s Class A Westminster Christian Sectional evolved, the Angels began to bear down.
Junior Maddy Troha finished with a 99 and junior Claire O’Connor came up with a 104 as JCA’s girls golf team placed third to advance to the finals of the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Major, who coached the Angels’ volleyball team to the Final Four back in 1998. “This group of girls has worked so hard together and they have absolutely no drama to their games.
“When they got off the course, they knew their scores were a little higher than they might have wanted, but it became clearer as the day went on and they realized, ‘Hey we did what we needed to do.”
Along with the Troha-O’Connor combination, junior Carmella Bolin (Plainfield) scored with a 108 and senior Laurel Stofan added a 110. Senior Kelsey Fenske (124) and junior Alexa McClintock (143) also competed.
Marian Central Catholic won the sectional title at the Golf Club of Illinois with a 385 and Byron placed second with 414. JCA grabbed the third and final qualifying spot with a 421, edging out Rockford Lutheran’s 427.
“The course was the great equalizer,” Major said. “I think what helped our girls was we shot a practice round there on Saturday and it gave the girls confidence. They knew the course was not going to be easy to score, so they would have to grind it out and keep going after it.
“The way they set it up, we were in a group with Wheaton St. Francis, Marengo and Rockford Lutheran. Marian Central, Byron, Nazareth were in another group. And as those teams started coming in, we could look up at the leaderboard and we were picking teams off one by one.”
That buzz carried indoors, where the girls congregated after their round. Eventually, the news settled in.
“The girls knew they shot higher than they wanted, but it wasn’t 10, 12, 15 strokes higher,” Major said. “And we didn’t just have one girl scoring. We had four solid scores, and that hurt the teams behind us.
“I don’t think the girls could believe what was happening right away because it was beyond their goals.”
A dream weekend qualifies JCA for the state finals, to be held at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur. One of the leading Angels will be Troha, who continued her steady pace during the sectional.
“Maddy missed a putt or two that she would have liked to had back,” Major said. “But for the most part, she golfed very well. That has been her game all year long. She holds it together and keeps going.”