Aurora’s best girls golfers agreed that putting was not their forte this past season.
They did plenty of other things right, however, as the five members of the 2014 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Golf Team — which is based on results from the Class 5A state tournament May 20-21 at Raccoon Creek G.C. — combined to produce a state team championship and a top-10 individual finish among them.
Junior Sydney Gillespie, sophomore Mary Weinstein and freshman Jaclyn Murray of a Regis Jesuit team that won the first 5A state golf crown in program history makes up the majority of the top fivesome from city schools, while Grandview sophomore Morgan Sahm — the tournament’s co-leader after one round — and Rangeview senior Julia Kim, who posted her best career finish in three trips to state, round out the group.
Gillespie played on the Regis Jesuit team that won the 4A state championship in 2012 and her performance on the second day of the state tournament was a big factor in the Raiders’ 5A victory as well. She battled through a tough opening day when she shot a 13-over-par 85 to post a 4-over 76 in the second round, which helped coach George Miller’s team hold off Continental League rival Rock Canyon in the team standings.
“I think I learned a lot throughout the year and gained a lot of experience through playing well and not playing well,” said Gillespie, who tied for 10th individually. “I learned a lot on the first day of state and then coming back after that, so that’s the big thing I took away from this year…I knew we had a lot of talent and knew we could win, so I’m really proud of Mary and Jaclyn and Erika (sophomore Sailer) to go out and play their best.”
Gillespie plans to play a number of qualifying tournaments over the summer and hopes to give plenty of attention to her mental approach to the game and her ability to score with her short game. She’s also continuing to consider possibilities of playing golf in college.
Weinstein’s played so much golf in recent weeks that her recollection of state is blurry, but she does remember the one putt she made on the final hole. After her tee shot on No. 18, the tournament went into an hour-long delay due to lightning and a fast-moving hail storm. When it resumed, Weinstein dropped her second shot on the green and drained a short birdie putt that prompted her to leap in the air in celebration.
The putt likely sealed the state championship for the Raiders, who finished three strokes clear of Rock Canyon, which had a player still on the course after Weinstein finished.
“Putting…it needs work; I’ve been messing around with my putting; I changed it before regionals and again before state and I even got a new putter, so I’m still fixing it,” said Weinstein, who posted rounds of 79 and 82 to tie for 10th at state. “On the first day of state I was making putts, but not on the second day. But I made my last one!”
Consistency eluded Weinstein this season, although she managed to win two Continental League tournaments along the way.
“This year was some good days, some bad,” said Weinstein, who is eager to see what the team can do again next season with all four state players expected back.
Murray joined an already successful program as a freshman, but fit in quickly right away. Boosted by the support of a Regis Jesuit team she said felt like family from the start, Murray played well in Continental League play and had a steady performance in her state debut. She ground her way to rounds of 81 and 82, which brought her 18th in the final standings.
An even-keel approach, which can be difficult for young players, was the key to her season Murray felt.
“It’s not always easy, but I always try to maintain that level-headedness,” Murray said. “When I can’t do that, bad things happen. But I find that when I’m mentally strong, I play great, so that’s always my main goal.”
Sahm finished in a tie for seventh individually, the highest finish among city players, but had bigger goals on her mind after the first round.
After an opening round loaded with pars and just three bogeys, Sahm was surprised to see her plus-3 score at the top of the leaderboard when the day finished along with Columbine’s Jaylee Tait. The score landed her a spot in the final group for the second round, which had a significant gallery that was decidedly pro-Tait, who was playing on her home course.
The extra distraction of the crowd and the tough putting circumstances experienced by the entire field led to a score of 10-over 82 for Sahm in the second round, which dropped her down the leaderboard, though she still finished two spots higher than she did as a freshman in 2013.
“I totally thought I could win it, but I just played the worst round I played all year,” Sahm recalled of her second round. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to for sure…There were a lot of people following the other girls, so that made it tough. I definitely hope to be in that position again.”
Sahm — who said she “couldn’t make a putt to save my life” — is prepared for a summer of out-of-state tournaments and has already qualified for the Callaway Junior Worlds in San Diego. She’s also excited to see how her teammates from Grandview — senior-to-be Caroline O’Donnell and junior-to-be Emily Jung — will improve after their state performance as well.
“This was the first time we had a team at state for Grandview, so we were really excited about that,” Sahm said. “Next year, we hope to be a lot better and hopefully win it. I know we can with all the hard work and practice we’re going to put in.”
Kim capped the finest season by a girls golfer in Rangeview history by qualifying for the state tournament for a third straight season.
Prior to that, Kim set the school record with her round of 1-over-par 73 on April 22 at Buffalo Run G.C. in the second East Metro Athletic Conference major tournament of the season. The performance helped her rally to win the EMAC individual championship by two strokes and lifted coach Rob Schurich’s Raiders into second place as a team.
Kim tied for 35th overall in the 84-golfer field for her best career state finish, climbing 19 spots on the leaderboard from 2013 with rounds of 87 each day.
The University of Illionis-Chicago-bound Kim is also one of five winners of the City of Aurora’s annual Paul McMullen Junior Golf Scholarships.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY GIRLS GOLF TEAM
Sydney Gillespie, jr., Regis Jesuit; Julia Kim, sr., Rangeview; Jaclyn Murray, fr., Regis Jesuit; Morgan Sahm, soph., Grandview; Mary Weinstein, soph., Regis Jesuit
Faith Hope, sr., Cherokee Trail; Emily Jung, soph., Grandview; Caroline O’Donnell, jr., Grandview; Erika Sailer, soph., Regis Jesuit