Maddie Schrantz’s advice to any aspiring young golfers hoping to become the first female to represent Evanston at the Illinois High School Association State tournament is two-fold.
Take your time on the course – and take your driver out of the bag and use it.
The ETHS senior turned in one of her best career rounds with a 45-45-90 and junior Amelie Koecher mustered a 44-48-92 Monday at the Class 2A Conant Sectional tournament held at the Bridges at Poplar Creek Country Club in Hoffman Estates.
Neither Wildkit standout really threatened to earn a spot as an at-large individual State qualifier. The cutoff to advance as one of the top 10 players not members of advancing teams rested at 85, and half of those players carded scores under 78 in a loaded field.
New Trier (311), Loyola Academy (317) and Glenbrook North (326) topped the team competition and will advance to the Illinois High School Association finals this weekend. Amy Beanblossom, a junior from New Trier, earned medalist honors with a 2-over-par 74.
Veteran Wildkit head coach Karilyn Joyce has urged her players for years to strive to get longer off the tee, a plea that has fallen on deaf ears for the most part. But both Schrantz and Koecher showed Monday that the ability to put themselves in position to score low coming off the tee was a big reason they enjoyed postseason success.
Both players consistently out-drove the others in their respective foursomes and that came as no surprise to Joyce.
“Most of our girls don’t think they can hit a driver, so they never use it,” Joyce said. “Some of them don’t even bring their drivers to the driving range. But that’s a whole stroke you’re missing from your game if you keep the driver in your bag and you never use it. It’s all about confidence too. It makes a huge difference if you work on it, and now both Maddie and Amelie are passing other people by because of it.
“I see the positives, they just see the negatives.”
Schrantz pointed out that the fact that Evanston’s home course (Canal Shores) is so short also plays into that lack of driving prowess.
“It’s tough to transition to longer courses when we play so much there,” she said. “I could tell when I was on the driving range this morning that today was going to be a good day for me. My drives were really, really good and that was really helpful toward the score I got [2 off her career best 88].
“This year I’ve worked a lot more on driving and that’s the main reason I got to this spot this year. I got on the range and figured out what was wrong with my game. At the beginning of the season my drives were about 150 yards, and today it was more like 200. After playing most of the time on a short course, it’s tough when you get to the longer ones and can’t hit it to the green. Today, I got on the greens a lot.
“During the regional I was rushing too much and today was just a better day for me because I took my time out there on each stroke. My putting was all over the place – the greens were just brutal [fast] – but my driver and my irons were consistent.
“It felt good to finish on such a good note. I’m proud of what I did today.”
Koecher, the first two-time sectional qualifier in program history, faded on the back nine after looking like a possible State contender with 5 pars on the front side. She managed to battle past one bad hole, but when she had to take 6 putts on the par 3 No. 11 hole – with a pin placement squarely in the middle of a steep angled green – even a birdie on the 17th hole couldn’t salvage her round.
“I thought Maddie played extremely well today. I couldn’t have asked for more from her,” Joyce said. “Today it was more of a mind game with Amelie and that’s where she needs to improve. She was all upset about that 9 and couldn’t let it go, and she still had a 44, and that’s not bad at all.
“She puts a lot of pressure on herself, and that’s the problem, because no one else is putting pressure on her.”