SHELDON – All you need to know about how good a golfer Katie Jean is is this: She shot a 41 on the front nine during Monday's Class 1A girls' golf sectional at Shewami Country Club and cried.
And they weren't tears of joy. Jean was angry.
"I was just so frustrated," the St. Thomas More junior said. "I was not hitting the ball well at all. I was 5 over after five, and I pretty much thought my round was shot after that."
Turns out Jean was wrong. Once the tears dried, she settled down and shot a 1-over-par 37 on the back en route to claiming medalist honors with a 7-over 78. She and teammates Sheila Skulborstad (81) and Kelly Tresslar (83) swept the top three spots as the Sabers claimed the team title by 45 strokes over Kankakee Bishop McNamara and advanced to this weekend's state finals.
"I shot a 40 on the front, and I was really excited," Tresslar said. "Katie is phenomenal, I don't care what she says. I'd cry if I were in the 50s, but not with a 41."
And on Monday, 41 on the front wasn't a bad score. In fact, it was pretty good. Only three other players were better than Jean after nine holes.
St. Thomas More coach Pat Hettermann said Jean is as great a competitor as she has ever coached, and sometimes that trait is her biggest strength as well as her biggest weakness.
This season, Jean's nine-hole average is just below 38, so a 41 was uncharacteristic for her. For the average golfer, a 41 might draw a celebration, but Jean is not your average golfer.
"She's a perfectionist, and she expects so much of herself," Hettermann said. "She's so hard on herself when she doesn't shoot a perfect round that it affects her game, and I think that may be what happened to her a little today.
"A bogey is not a bad thing and a par is not a bad thing, but in Katie's book it can be. She likes birdies, but par will win the state tournament."
Because she thought she was out of the running for the individual title, Jean said she felt little pressure during the second half of her round and just had fun with it. A solid short game and her 250-yard tee shots had something to do with her success, too.
"I knew Sheila came in with a 37 on the front, and I knew everyone was doing well that we were going to make it to state, so I was like, 'Eh, whatever,' " Jean said. "I just didn't have a lot of confidence early in my swing, and I was just trying to force things."
That she came back and not only broke 80 but won the tournament, Hettermann said, says a lot about Jean's character. She faced an adverse situation that would have broken most players her age.
"She's just got such great fortitude," Hettermann said. "She just loves the game so much that she doesn't give up, and that's probably the best thing about her. She takes whatever is handed to her and uses it to make herself better."
Blue Ridge's Allison Riggs (89, seventh) and Ashley Elliott (91, 10th) lead a group of five other area individual qualifiers for this weekend's state meet at Stone Creek Golf Course in Makanda.
Iroquois West's Amy Keigher (90, t-eighth), Clinton's Kalee Maiden (93) and GCMS' Sidney Overman (93) also will compete this weekend.