Although they will not be joined by the rest of their teammates, Highland High girls golfers Rece Portell and Audrey Wilke are moving on to Monday’s IHSA Class 1A Salem Sectional after making the cut at last Wednesday’s Alton Marquette Regional at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course.
Out of the 10 advancing individuals who were not on an advancing team from the Marquette Regional, Portell, a junior, carded a 91 to finish in the third advancing spot while Wilke, a sophomore, shot a 94 to take the fourth slot.
A bright spot for the Lady Bulldogs as a team was shooting their season-best team score for 18 holes with a 400.
“I am so proud of the character that this team displays and what great kids they are,” Highland veteran coach Gina Hirsch said .
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Unfortunately, Highland junior Gabi Berolatti missed the final qualifying spot by one stroke.
“The day started with raindrops and finished with the sun shining,” Hirsch said. “We had a couple slow starts off the first tee but we bounced back pretty quickly. Coach (Brendan) Bargetzi spent the day primarily with Audrey (Wilke) and (junior) Kayla (Davis). Rece was in a zone so we just let her do her thing. She played pretty well.”
Portell would have gotten down in the 80s except for a couple chips that went long.
“I got a report that at one time she was 4-over and I was just tickled about that,” Hirsch said. “I am so happy for Rece. She works really hard and is always pushing herself. Rece is such a competitor. She was ready to go back out and work on shots.”
Hirsch said Wilke’s round of 94 was utterly amazing, especially since she has only been playing competitive golf for two months.
“Coach Bargetzi was with her a lot of the time coaching her and giving coarse management advice,” Hirsch said. “Two months ago, Audrey picks up golf and now she shoots a 94 on our biggest day of the golf season. I screamed so loud when she told me and the pavilion went silent. She stays a lot after practice and plays on the weekends. Hard work does pay off.”
Also qualifying as individuals for Monday’s Salem Sectional at Salem Country Club from the News Leader’s coverage area were Mater Dei seniors Mikaleen Lawrence (88) and Karlee Rongey (100).
The three advancing teams were regional champions Marquette (359), Columbia (381) and Althoff (383).
The individual regional champion was Roxana junior Bailey Sharpmack with a stellar round of 80.
At Monday’s Class 2A Edwardsville Regional at Oak Brook Golf Club, Triad senior Brianna Benardin was the top advancing individual with a round of 80. She advances to Tuesday’s Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin Sectional.
Other golfers fall short
Hirsch said Davis struggled on the front nine but she kept her composure on the course.
“I gave her a big hug on her ninth hole and we talked about the character that she was displaying,” Hirsch said. “I didn’t care about the score, I was more impressed on how she handled herself. We talked about just slowing down and trying your best. And that she did. She showed what an awesome kid she is.”
Hirsch admitted she had a tear in her eye when Berolatti came up one shot of qualifying.
“She is another kid who picked up golf two months ago and just did a phenomenal job today,” Hirsch said. “She just had a couple shots go into dirt patches where the ball was down in a crevice. It is hard to hit those shots when you are an experienced golfer and even harder when you are inexperienced. I couldn’t believe how far she was hitting her drives. Her Pappy gave her some tips on the range and she was just blistering the ball.”
Hirsch said another highlight of today was the play of freshman Geena Budwell.
“She shot 15 strokes better today than her best 18-hole round,” Hirsch said. “This is a much harder course so I told her just what a great round that was. Geena made a 20-foot putt today and the great thing was I got to see it go in. She was grinning ear to ear.”
Portell falls short at the sectional
Portell struck the ball very well on her tee shots and but struggled on some of the greens and came in with a 94. Wilke finished with a 106.
“We had some really good holes and some we struggled on,” Hirsch said. “ I think the hardest thing for us today was just the length of the round. They were on the course for 6 hours and 45 minutes. On our last hole, there were three groups waiting at the tee. We could never get into any kind of flow. You would hit a shot and then wait. It is so hard to stay focused for that long. No other sport has to focus for that long and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Hirsch said Wilke really putted well and started her chips off with some soft hands on fast greens.
“I thought her putting was one of her strongest areas today,” Hirsch said. “I told Audrey before we started that she made it to sectionals her first year of playing and very few kids get to do it as an individual. No matter what happens today, you have set a high mark for others to follow.”