Girls' Golfer of Year: Salt Fork's Courtney LaFoe
CATLIN — The first time Courtney LaFoe played a competitive round of golf — the summer before her freshman season for Salt Fork — her score was 147.
The last time she played for the Storm, her score was 162.
Don’t be deceived by those numbers. Her first round was for 18 holes. Her final event was 36 holes.
LaFoe earned Area Girls’ Player of the Year honors based on her finish at the state finals (13th) as well as her nine-hole stroke average when she played — infrequently — from the girls’ tees (40.6).
LaFoe’s overall season average is a reflection of her scores for half of the matches played from boys’ tees.
“Sometimes playing with the boys is a little intimidating,” LaFoe said. “They hit the ball up to 100 yards further than me on some occasions. However, I have definitely found it to be an advantage.
“With us being in the conference that we are (Vermilion Valley), there are not enough girls’ teams for it to be competitive, and playing with the boys helps me build that edge.
“I enjoy that competition. Playing with the boys gives me a lot of long iron and fairway wood work, but once I move up to the girls’ tees, I am much more confident with the wedges into the greens.”
Dual-sport participation is not unusual — especially at smaller schools — but LaFoe’s second activity of choice is not the standard for high schoolers. She’s also a cheerleader.
“I’ve been a cheerleader as long as I can remember,” LaFoe said. “Cheerleading teaches you more than someone from the outside looking in would think. There is a tremendous amount of teamwork, dedication and trust that comes along with being a cheerleader.”
LaFoe is an example of how a teenager can be successful in both endeavors.
“A lot of little girls cheer, and once you cheer in high school, it seems as if all the younger cheerleaders know all about you and try to be just like you,” LaFoe said. “I enjoy trying to set a good example for those young girls. I have a lot of school spirit, and cheerleading gives me the opportunity to show it.
“My cheerleading squad also does a lot of volunteer work in our community, which is very rewarding to me.”
LaFoe started strong and finished her golf season even stronger as a senior. She was the medalist or tied for low score in two of her first four meets — each off of boys’ tees — and concluded her career with three of her best rounds the last four times she played.
She fired an 81 at the Charleston Regional, a 78 at sectionals (where she placed ahead of the eventual Class 1A state champion) and a 77 in her final round at state, which was the day’s fourth-best score.
“She has a big upside, even though she is very good now,” Salt Fork coach Mark Mullins said. “She hasn’t reached her potential.
“She will gain more confidence as she plays in college and trusts her own judgment on things. While on the course, she stays pretty locked in. She stays mentally tough.”
LaFoe was one of 13 members on Salt Fork’s coed team this fall. Mullins said she not only worked on her game at practice but also provided pointers to her teammates.
“She is so good at helping other kids,” Mullins said. “She knows the insides and outs of the swing.”
Golf has helped LaFoe become more social.
“Golf helps a lot with communication skills,” she said. “When you are in a tournament and playing with other people, you have four hours to talk to them and find out about them.”
Beyond that, the sport has emphasized a life lesson.
“Golf has taught me honesty and integrity,” LaFoe said. “Always know and follow the rules. That practice is more important than anything else. Through golf, you learn that it is rewarding to always do the right thing, such as calling a penalty on yourself even when no one else knew that a penalty occurred.”
Originally, LaFoe was concerned when the coach she had her first two years at Salt Fork, Dave McCoy, retired.
“I had a great coach my freshman and sophomore year and was very close with Coach McCoy,” LaFoe said. “I was worried about who his replacement would be. Coach Mullins jumped right in, and I built a good relationship with him.
“I was very lucky to have two coaches that took such great interest in providing me the opportunity to succeed.”
If her recognition in golf helps encourage others to get started, that’s a bonus.
“I hope this award helps to inspire other young women to take up golf,” LaFoe said.
Regardless of her future profession, LaFoe plans to stay active in golf.
“Golf is one of my great passions,” she said, “which is why I’ve chosen to continue it at the collegiate level. It’s a passion that I can actively participate in all through my life.
“Golf is kind of addicting. There’s always that one bad hole or those two bad swings that keep you coming back the next day. I like the challenge of trying to better myself every time I go out.”
That quest was easier to meet when she was shooting in the 140s for 18 holes. Now that she consistently shoots in the upper 70s or low 80s, her rate of improvement has slowed.
She has progressed since she got her first set of clubs as a 3-year-old and “I hit plastic golf balls in the backyard a lot,” she said.
One area of her life remains a constant, Mullins said.
“I know it’s a cliche, but as good of a golfer as she is, she’s an even better person,” Mullins said. “She is a very nice person, very thoughtful of others.”
Getting to know Courtney LaFoe
Why she’s Player of the Year: The Eastern Illinois recruit placed an area-best 13th in the Class 1A state tournament with a 36-hole score of 162.
Season highlights: Winning Vermilion Valley Conference medalist honors for the third consecutive year and placing 13th at state in Class 1A.
A few of my favorite things: a 2007 Hyundai Sonata ... Florida Georgia Line ... favorite class is child development ... Annika Sorenstam ... McDonald’s or pizza ... role models are my parents ... toughest course I’ve played is the back nine at Charleston Country Club ... last text to my boyfriend, Noah Darr ... first job, as cart girl at Harrison Park, Danville ... in 10 years, I would like to be on the LPGA but will probably be teaching and coaching ... Catlin High School is a fun place to go to school with lots of friends.
About LaFoe: “She had a good upbringing in golf but made herself better by playing in summer tournaments. I use her as an example for young kids. To make yourself into a competitive player, you have to get yourself under fire and play in competitive matches during the summer. That’s where you make the most improvement.” — Salt Fork coach Mark Mullins
Girls’ Players of the Year
2013 Courtney LaFoe Salt Fork
2012 Brooklyn Hildreth Mahomet-Seymour
2011 Sierra Myerscough St. Thomas More
2010 Lizzy Dombroski Centennial
2009 Lizzy Dombroski Centennial
2008 Katie Jean St. Thomas More
2007 Katie Jean St. Thomas More
2006 Jenna Dombroski Centennial
2005 Kim Bailey Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
2004 Kim Bailey Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
Girls’ Coaches of the Year
2013 Chris Townsend Monticello
2012 Matt Mills Mahomet-Seymour
2011 Guy Percy Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
All-Area Honorable Mention
NAME SCHOOL YEAR
Kylie Beck Blue Ridge Sr.
Maddie Birckbichler Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Emily Black Judah Christian Fr.
Evelyn Brand Monticello Sr.
Katie Brown Centennial Sr.
Bailey Conner Arcola So.
Mary Corkery Urbana Sr.
Annie Crumbaugh LeRoy Jr.
Sarah Daily Schlarman Sr.
Madeline Diniz Monticello Sr.
Caroline Dodds St. Thomas More Sr.
Taylor During St. Thomas More Sr.
Keegan Gagne Mahomet-Seymour So.
Kayla Gould Champaign Central Sr.
Drew Grimes Watseka Sr.
Annie Heinz Tuscola Jr.
Lexus Hornsby Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Emmalee Hortenstine Sullivan Sr.
Claire Huisinga Monticello Sr.
Grace Khachaturian Centennial Jr.
Makayla Kindred Ridgeview So.
Lindsey Luehrsen Iroquois West Sr.
Kendyl McFarland Monticello Fr.
Peyton Meade Salt Fork Jr.
Mia Miller Champaign Central Jr.
Courtney Monier LeRoy So.
Holly Morgeson Hoopeston Area Jr.
Kailyn Morrell LeRoy Sr.
Kate Mueller Watseka Sr.
Gwen Orr Iroquois West Jr.
Taylor Reifsteck Tuscola Jr.
Bella Ritz Champaign Central So.
Emma Sementi Tuscola So.
Katie Sullivan Centennial Jr.
Camaryn Todd Salt Fork So.
Emily Trolia Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Megan Tsevelekos Blue Ridge Jr.
Kaleigh Wilken Iroquois West Jr.
Lindsey Wisniewski Centennial So.
Jess Wohlwend LeRoy Jr.
Final N-G Top 10
1. Monticello Kendyl McFarland area’s top freshman
2. Mahomet-Seymour Emily Trolia area’s top junior
3. Centennial Only one senior among team’s top five
4. LeRoy Five-player team had little margin for error
5. Champaign Central Four of top six were underclassmen
6. Blue Ridge Four of top five were seniors
7. St. Thomas More Roster with three seniors, four freshmen
8. Tuscola Top four players were underclassmen
9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Team only had freshmen and sophomores
10. Sullivan Showed steady progress this season