Indian Creek golf coach Keith Haag made a last-minute schedule change.
Instead of holding practice in Shabbona at Indian Oaks, the Timberwolves’ home course, he took his team out to Prairie View in Byron, the site of today’s Class A Byron Regional.
The Timberwolves are playing their best golf of the year over the past two weeks and Haag wanted to give them all the experience and information possible to keep the momentum today.
“If there’s ever a time to peak, it’s now,” Haag said. “We had a really good week last week, we had four meets in a row which was very taxing on them and we end up 3-1 on the week, which is very good.”
In two of those dual meets, Indian Creek broke the 200 mark, shooting 196 and 199, season bests for the Timberwolves.
Haag credits Indian Creek’s improved short game for its recent streak. At practice, Haag will teach proper chipping fundamentals and run through drills, starting close to the green and backing up in 10-yard increments so his players get a feel for different distances.
He’ll do the same thing on the putting green and has seen marked improvement as the season has progressed.
“The short game is always the last thing to come around,” Haag said. “We spent at least half of the time on the short game. They’ve all gotten much more proficient at it.”
At the center of Indian Creek’s rise is senior Lauren Frances, who advanced to the sectional as an individual last season.
Frances has been playing in Haag’s junior golf clinics for the last eight years and Haag said she put in a lot of work over the offseason. She’s noticed the benefits in longer drives and more accurate iron play.
“I always had a tough time with par 3’s, but I’m better at it now,” Frances said. “I can get it on the green where I want it to be.”
Before the season, every Indian Creek player set an individual goal of what they would like to shoot as their low round of nine holes on the year. Frances, who shot a 41 at Wing Park in Elgin earlier this year, put her mark at 40.
And while Frances certainly has another opportunity to achieve her own goal, the focus now is on a bigger team accomplishment.
“As a team we’re really working to try and get to sectionals as a team instead of individuals. That’s a big goal of ours to do it as a team,” Frances said. “We’re all really close and we have so much fun out there. It would mean a lot to us.”
Knights’ Guyton reinvigorated: Kaneland junior Tori Guyton faced long lulls between each of her competitive rounds this season. As an individual representing a school without a full girls team, she entered tournaments at a sporadically scheduled pace.
Guyton’s mental game admittedly sputtered early, but re-adjusting to the non-team format after playing the 2012 regular season alongside the Kaneland boys eventually provided a spark.
Entering today’s Class AA Burlington Central Sectional at Sycamore Golf Club, Guyton feels about as collected as she has all season.
“Right before tryouts this year, I was freaking myself out and worried I was not going to be playing with the boys,” she said. “I went through a two-week slump and had about zero confidence, but I’ve picked myself up and been practicing about as hard as I can.”
Guyton and classmate Julia VanGemert – both all-Northern Illinois Big 12 honorees last week – split practices between Hughes Creek in Elburn and Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, where Guyton’s father, John, is head pro.
Reinvigorated to compete and hopeful to advance to Monday’s Rockford Guilford Sectional and beyond, Guyton is primed to turn in her best finish to date.
The younger sister of former Kaneland standout Haley Guyton, now at Illinois State, Guyton was a sectional qualifier in 2012.
“It has been truly a blessing because I have improved so much from the beginning of the season to now than I have the last two years,” Guyton said.
Kevin Druley contributed to this report.