Amelie Koecher treated the Class 2A Glenbrook North Regional tournament like just another day at the office Thursday, Sept. 30.
The most successful female golfer in Evanston Township High School program history has her sights set a lot higher than just qualifying for sectional play.
Koecher, a junior, became the first Wildkit girl ever to qualify for multiple sectional berths and senior teammate Maddie Schrantz also grabbed an at-large qualifying spot for next week’s sectional tournament.
Koecher fired a 44-41-85 and Schrantz added a 48-48-96 to lead ETHS to a sixth-place finish in the team standings, with a score of 398, at the newly renovated Heritage Oaks Golf Club in Northbrook. New Trier (301), Loyola Academy (307) and Glenbrook North (335) claimed the automatic team qualifying berths.
Also representing the Wildkits were senior Eliana Veron, 49-58-107; freshman Mari Frigo, 55-55-110; junior Kylie Kimmel, 115; and senior Sydney TerMolen, 123.
Koecher, who qualified for the sectional as a freshman and didn’t play high school golf last season, punched her postseason ticket again and will be joined by Schrantz at the Oct. 4 Class 2A Conant Sectional. That tourney, with state final berths at stake, will be held at the Bridges of Poplar Creek Country Club in Hoffman Estates. Regional qualifiers from GBN, Prospect, Hersey and St. Ignatius will make up the field.
Plagued by a shoulder injury, and some illness that caused her to miss valuable competition and practice time this fall, Koecher regained her position as Evanston’s No. 1 golfer with a solid if not spectacular round Thursday.
“I felt like there was no other option for me today [than to qualify]. I’ve been wanting to make it to the sectional and to State all year,” Koecher said. “No, I’m not mad about the way I played today. But I definitely could have played a lot better.
“I know I’ll have to pick it up a little at the sectional. Today I just didn’t fully think all my shots through, and there were a lot of putts I didn’t line up right. But I did birdie my first two holes on the back nine, and that was really cool. I’ve done that before, going back-to-back, but it really made me feel pretty strong at that point.
“Hopefully I can make it to State. That would be a really cool experience. Once I put all the pieces together, I think I can get where I need to be.”
Longtime ETHS girls coach Karilyn Joyce said there’s no question that, even with a full year yet to go, Koecher already ranks as the GOAT in program history.
“Liz Fitzsimonds [former Wildkit standout] wasn’t as good as Amelie as a junior,” Joyce said. “Amelie is a very good golfer and I think she can play in college. I was very impressed with her today, and with all the girls. Maddie’s done a lot of hard work all four years she’s been in the program, and all of the girls are hitting off the tee better for us this year. That’s made a huge difference in our scores. You have to hit your drivers to be able to compete, and that’s what we’ve done this year.”
Koecher credited her mother, a former Division I tennis player, for helping her narrow her focus to a more successful path on the golf course this summer.
“I really didn’t know how good I wanted to be, or what my goals were, but my mother pushed me to think about my goals and to figure out just how much time I wanted to put into golf,” Koecher said. “I played in as many [Illinois Junior Golf Association] tournaments as I could this summer, even though I hate tournaments because I always put too much pressure on myself. I put too much pressure on every shot, usually. And if I hit a bad shot, I have a hard time forgetting about it.”
Koecher didn’t hit many bad shots Thursday. She carded another birdie on the front nine and easily landed one of the individual qualifying berths for the best scores among non-team qualifiers.
Schrantz had to wait more than two hours after the completion of her own round to see whether or not a playoff would be necessary to determine all of the individual qualifiers.
That playoff ultimately did take place, but as it turned out, Schrantz had already secured a sectional spot and didn’t have to keep playing Thursday.
“It was worth the wait!” the excited senior said. “It was 50-50 there for a while, but I’m so excited to make it to sectional.
“My confidence has really increased this year and that’s the one thing I’ve really worked on. My dad is always telling me to have the memory of a goldfish when I’m out on the course, after each hole, and that’s what I did today. I was definitely surprised we played from the white tees (adding distance to each hole), because that was a little intimidating.
“But I had a par on the on the par-5 No. 7 hole [454 yards from the white tee] right after I took an 8 on a hole, so I was able to turn things around pretty quickly today.”