illini prairie girls

Monticello senior Ashley Long watches her ball as she tees off on the sixth hole during the Illini Prairie Conference Meet at the University of Illinois Blue Course in Savoy on Monday. Long is Monticello’s top golfer this year.

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Long, Webber lead way for Sages

MONTICELLO — Roster size isn’t an overwhelming strength for coach Andrew Turner’s Monticello girls’ golf program.

He has just enough athletes — four — to compile a team score at any event the Sages attend.

In Monticello’s case, however, the quality easily outweighs the quantity.

The quartet of senior Ashley Long, senior Claire Webber, sophomore Amelia Patterson and junior Tori Taylor has experienced sufficient success this fall.

“I’ve been really happy with their progress,” Turner said. “I thought the girls would maybe start to wane a little bit (without a state tournament to look forward to), but they just look at it like, ‘You know what, there’s still some good stuff to play for.’ ... They’ve handled it really, really well. Probably better than their coach has.”

Long almost always is leading the Sages. She opened the IHSA campaign with a medalist 78 at Farmer City’s Woodlawn Country Club during the Blue Ridge Invitational that propelled Monticello to second place on the team leaderboard.

Then, in a Sept. 1 nine-hole match with Mahomet-Seymour at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Long carded the best score in team history with a 3-under 33. The Sages won that dual to boot as Long broke the program record by 2 strokes.

“She’s been really good this year and just taking a big step, and I’m really excited for her future,” Turner said. “She’s a confident girl. ... She doesn’t get too up or too down overall. I think that serves her well.”

Webber and Patterson have battled it out for the No. 2 spot throughout the season. After Long’s leading nine-hole average of 41.3, Webber (47.1) and Patterson (49.2) aren’t separated by much while Taylor (54.0) hasn’t shot a round higher than 60 this year.

Patterson notched a 44 on Woodlawn’s back nine and matched Long with a 45 last Thursday at Monticello Golf Club, while Webber paced the lineup on the Sages’ home layout with a 41.

“Amelia’s making a huge step this year,” Turner said. “I don’t think I expected that kind of step from her this quickly based on where she finished last year from an average standpoint. ... This is kind of how Claire does it. She’s a second half of the season kind of girl.”

Monticello had its sights set on a big performance at Monday’s Illini Prairie Conference Meet in Savoy, but the Sages wound up with a fourth-place team finish. Now, they’ll seek redemption in the lone postseason action being offered by the IHSA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With no state this year, we’ve got the conference which we’re pointing to big and then we’ve got the regional,” Turner said prior to the IPC tournament. “Those are two big events that we’ve got to focus in on and kind of make that our season.”

Young Warriors making strides

TUSCOLA — Calling first-year Tuscola girls’ golf coach Toby Ring’s group a young bunch of athletes might be an understatement.

Ring considers his “veterans” to be sophomores Makenna Fiscus and Marley Good. Which is fair not only by scoring average, but also by age as the Warriors boast four sophomores and three freshmen as their entire roster.

“As a whole, we are so stinking young,” Ring said. “Our team is so stinking raw that anything I can get out of them is great. We’ve been trying to play bogey golf all year.”

This doesn’t mean Ring is having Tuscola shy away from tough competition. Their last two events were contested against a tough Monticello unit and bigger-school teams from Champaign Central and Charleston.

And the duo of Fiscus and Good provides one of the area’s better 1-2 punches. Their nine-hole averages are 48.4 and 48.6, respectively, and they’ve taken turns leading the Warriors in a given tournament.

“Makenna, I know she is pretty experienced in competition,” Ring said. “She played several summer events, and really, if you had to put her up against a good golfer, I think that’d be the person to go with.

“Marley’s just kind of even-keel. She doesn’t get riled too much. She provides that stability, I guess. So between the two of them, they really complement each other well.”

Among the rest of Ring’s roster, sophomore Isabelle Wilcox and freshman Zoey Thomason are offseason additions who have proven valuable.

Ring said Wilcox — who’s averaging 60.3 strokes per nine holes —usually would be playing volleyball this fall if not for the pandemic. Wilcox began her golf run with a 54 on Aug. 19 at Moweaqua Golf Course, matching Good’s total that day.

Thomason, along with her triplet brothers Nate and Ty, all have made a healthy mark on both the Warriors’ girls’ and boys’ golf team this year, with Zoey Thomason easing into the girls’ No. 3 slot with a nine-hole average of 56.0.

“She really has picked up the game pretty quickly for being a freshman,” Ring said of Thomason. “If you have some athletic ability, you can know your way around a golf course easy enough.”

Even if Tuscola doesn’t end its slate with a regional championship, its athletes’ relative youth and the repetitions they’re gaining right now could pay big dividends down the road.

“I guess the advantage and disadvantage to a young team is they get to be thrown into the fire and learn right away,” Ring said. “The experience of being able to go to conference and regionals at that age is pretty unique instead of being an alternate or sitting on the sidelines.”

Schroeder sparking steady Warriors

WATSEKA — When the Dwight girls’ golf team beat Watseka last week, it marked a rare event.

In fact, it hadn’t happened previously this season. That being Watseka falling short of winning during every previous dual, triangular or quadrangular match.

“We had a little hiccup,” Watseka coach Darin Hartman said. “We have been really, really fortunate that we’ve been steady Eddie basically all season. We’ve ... set the school record for low with a 187. For girls, that’s unheard of, at least for us, and some other teams around here.”

Athletes both firmly entrenched in and new to golf have aided Watseka, which will compete in the Twin Valley Conference Tournament this coming Monday.

Hartman’s Warriors would like to fare well in this Sangamon Valley-River Valley crossover showcase. But they also have other goals on their mind.

“The girls are kind of determined to try and make a run at a regional title,” Hartman said. “To get that done they’re going to have to be consistent, so that’s what we’re working on.”

And “the poster child” for consistency, according to Hartman, is senior Natalie Schroeder, who is averaging a team-best 41.2 strokes.

“She’s just done a great job, not just on the course but ... (also with) the leadership that she’s offered to her teammates,” Hartman said. “She’s just done an outstanding job of taking them under her wing and kind of flying with them.”

Junior Allie Hoy and senior Carolyn Dickte have staked a claim to Watseka’s No. 2 role more often than anyone else. Hoy averages 52.7 strokes per nine holes to Dickte’s 53.5.

“(Hoy is) really hitting the ball well, and she’s gotten a little bigger and a little stronger as she’s matured over the year,” Hartman said, “and it’s been fun to watch her. I knew (Dickte) had improved, but I didn’t realize how much until we got going and I got to see her play on a daily basis.”

Junior Caitlin Corzine (55.4), senior Haley Essington (55.6) and freshman Jasmine Essington (59.3) all sit below a 60-stroke nine-hole average as well.

“All three of them, they’re kind of perfectionists. They hate not playing well,” Hartman said, “and so what that does is it fuels them from a work ethic standpoint, which is a great thing to have.”

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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