Maggie Russell focused on nerve management this summer.
The DeKalb junior golfer played in Illinois Junior Golf Association and local junior tournaments in an effort to sharpen her skills and control the variety of emotions that occur during an 18-hole round. Russell is a two-time sectional qualifier, and missed out on a berth at state by three strokes last fall.
In 10 summer tournaments, Russell faced tough competition against complete strangers. Her best round was a 7-over-par 79 at Glencoe Golf Club. A seven stroke improvement over her Class 2A Rockford Guilford Sectional score of 86 last fall.
“Summer tournaments are just more intense,” Russell said. “The girls are all from different towns and I don’t know anyone. It’s really helped me to calm my nerves. I wanted to become a more consistent tournament player and think I’ve got better for the upcoming season and state series.”
Russell also has taken notice of how elite players are focused throughout a round. Last fall she noticed how poised Nicole Mangal of Metea Valley, who qualified for state, was as a playing partner at sectionals.
This summer when Russell played with girls who were 3-over par or 4-over par, she took note of their confidence and approach.
“I will get nervous before I get the first tee shot out of the way, especially when I don’t know my playing partners,” Russell said. “I get antsy and anxious. Then that causes me to overthink the next shot. When I play with my friends we are laughing and joking. When I play by myself I just go out and hit shots.
“Playing against someone that can post lower scores motivates me to get better. I even hung with some of the girls that went low in some tournaments.”
With a goal of qualifying for state in her junior season, Russell spent her time on the range this summer working on her short game. Extra practice on scoring shots from 100 yards and delicate chip shots led to a lower average this summer. She also worked to fix her miss, a blocked, push shot that would fade to the right if her tempo got a bit too quick.
The results so far have led to more greens in regulation and shorter putts because her accuracy has improved.
“I wasn’t disappointed I didn’t make state last year,” Russell said. “I am proud of the way I played. But this summer I honed my approach shots. I feel like I can hit more greens now and two-putt more. I feel like I am also more tough mentally from the competition I’ve faced.”
DeKalb coach John Cordes has a fuller schedule for Russell this fall. Rather than compete against the boys from the junior tee boxes, Russell will have a chance to play against more girls and hit from the ladies tees.
“She has put in the time this summer,” Cordes said. “Which should help her bring it when the time counts. In golf you’ve got to be on at all times. There is no room for one bad day when it comes to advancing to the state tournament. Her work this summer should help her to be better prepared for the challenges she will face at the state series.”
SEASON PREVIEW CAPSULES
Coach: John Cordes (21st season)
Key player: Maggie Russell, junior
Ready for impact: Maddie Hoth, sophomore
Cordes’ take: “At the end of last season Maddie wasn’t the same player that tried out in August. She has a year of experience in high school golf and a summer of playing quality golf which will further her improvement.”
Outlook: A two-time sectional qualifier, Russell will benefit from a full dual meet girls schedule. She will know her competition and will play from the ladies tees. Hoth has made a 38-stroke improvement – she shot a 148 at qualifying last year compared to a 110 last week at River Heights, and looks poised to make a run at sectionals as well.
Coach: Dave Burdick (6th season)
Key players: Emma Fischer, senior; Carissa Goetz, senior; Morgan Witmer, junior
Burdick’s take: “We have some players that won’t crack the varsity lineup, but will use the next seven weeks to get their games tuned up for regionals.”
Outlook: Three Spartans will look to use range time and an occasional dual meet to ready their games for the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament and regionals.
Coach: David Boyce (2nd season)
Key player: Bridget Halat, senior
Ready for impact: Kelly Hensley, junior; Megan Zimmerman, sophomore; Megan McCausland, senior
Boys coach Mike Lauer’s take: “We won’t focus on scores for the girls this year. This year is all about fun. We want to develop a love of the game.”
Outlook: Lauer took to the G-K hallways on a recruiting mission. The Cogs’ boys coach wanted the girls program, which he had previously coached, to continue, but the roster needed players. Hensley played volleyball and joins three softball players Lauer coaches in the spring to round out the Cogs’ roster.
Coach: Greg Jourdan (5th season)
Key players: Taylor Prellberg, senior; Emily Clark, senior; Sophie Peters, junior
Ready for impact: Erin Lyons, sophomore; Hannah Nokes, senior
Jourdan’s take: “Four in the 40s. That’s our goal all season. We had four players that worked all summer very hard to overcome any of their weaknesses on the course. I’ve seen the passion really develop in these players. They are lifelong golfers.”
Outlook: The Royals were 14-7 last fall and won their first Little 10 title. Yet, they battled injuries and health issues all season. A deep team is back with four players that can consistently break 50. Jourdan has a schedule loaded with talented, big-school teams in an effort to prepare H-BR for a run at team sectionals and state.
Coach: Keith Haag (6th season)
Key player: Delaney Bend, senior
Outlook: After a run to sectionals last year, Bend returns to anchor the T-Wolves’ lineup and make a run at state.
Outlook: Mark Meyer (10th season)
Key players: Tori Guyton, senior; Julia VanGemert, senior
Outlook: After she won the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Tournament last fall, Guyton went on to qualify for sectionals with teammate VanGemert.
– Compiled by James Nokes
• Keith Haag and Mark Meyer could not be reached for comment.