AURORA – Rylee Stenzel’s last visit to the Phillips Park Golf Course was but a distant memory she was reminded of driving in for a practice round Saturday.
“I actually played the back nine for a PGA Junior League event when I was in sixth grade. Super ironic,” said Stenzel, a Seneca senior. “My dad even had a picture of me on the course, I think I’m on No. 8 or No. 9. I had no idea. I didn’t remember it at all.”
She won’t soon forget her second trip to the Aurora course.
Stenzel shot a 3-over par 74, good for third place at the Class 1A Aurora Central Catholic Sectional as she was one of 10 individuals on non-qualifying teams headed to this weekend’s state tournament at Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur.
It’s a long time coming for Stenzel, whose dad Kyle also qualified for state in high school at Seneca. Stenzel missed out on state by two shots as a freshman, and “played pretty bad” her sophomore year in not making it. Last fall, the state meet was not held due to COVID-19 limitations on the state series.
“It’s a life goal for me, very happy to be able to accomplish it,” Stenzel said. “I was just hoping to at least match my dad’s record.”
Latin, with a team score of 318 anchored by medalist Pickle Coleman’s 70, St. Francis (331) and Saint Viator (345) each qualified their teams for state.
Area individual qualifiers included Stenzel and Plano’s Faith Malloy (83).
Stenzel said that the course played “kind of short for me,” but said she enjoyed it.
“The back nine was definitely harder than the front nine, but it was worth it,” she said. “I birdied No. 7, made a really long putt that I needed to keep going.”
Malloy was one of four girls, along with University of Chicago Laboratory Schools freshman Maxine Hurst, Sandwich’s Alijah Campbell and St. Edward’s Ivy Burnett who went to a playoff for the last two spots.
That sat just fine with Malloy, who had bounced back from a shaky 44 on the front nine to post a 39 on the back.
“Oh my gosh, while we were waiting I was like get out and go – honestly I love pressure. I use that as my momentum,” Malloy said. “I thought everybody is watching, I got this, it’s my time to shine.”
Shine she did, as Malloy and Hurst both made bogey on the par 4 16th to claim the last two spots. After calmly sinking a short bogey putt Malloy let out a big smile, gave a short fist pump and then walked off the green and into the embrace of a cheering section that included her mom, nana and papa, grandma and grandpa and basketball coach.
“That [fist pump] is my go to thing, my Tigers Woods,” Malloy smiled.
It’s Malloy’s first trip to state, after she missed what would have been the state tournament last year by one shot.
She credited Fox Bend Pro Jonathan Staton for “changing my whole game” and giving her a whole different mindset in recent years and an ability to shape her approach shots. Malloy kept the right mindset after a rocky start Monday.
“Front I still had the jitters and felt like those jitters screwed with my head,” Malloy said. “In the end, when I took the turn I realized if I’m good enough to make this, then I got this. If everybody does better than me then they deserve to go. Whatever happens, happens but I’m going to go out playing my best round.”
Campbell came up short of state, but her round of 83 matched the Sandwich 18-hole record.
“I thought I walked off the course giving myself a chance,” Campbell said. “I played a pretty good round and was proud of myself. You always look back to see where you could have saved some strokes, but overall I was pretty happy and thought I performed well.”
St. Francis, a week removed from winning a regional title, is headed back to state for the second time in three years – led by a girl who wasn’t even in high school in 2019.
Sophomore Emmy Hollarbush shot a 75 for fourth place individually. She was followed by teammate Sarah Grivetti (83), Katherine Lilly (85) and Kayla Olson (88).
“I’m really excited of our team and what we have done,” said Hollarbush, who was medalist at conference and second at regionals in recent weeks. “Absolutely, I thought we could do this. I just felt like we had the determination to keep going.”
Hollarbush bounced back from bogeys on No. 10 and No. 12 and a double on No. 13 to finish her round with four pars and a birdie.
“It got a little rough for a bit on the back nine but I had a strong finish,” Hollarbush said. “I just had to take it shot by shot and keep grinding the whole way out.”
I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.