IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Penelope Tir’s relationship with golf got off to a rough start some 10 years ago.
Tir was 7, when she received a bright, yellow golf bag with only a handful of clubs in it. Her father, Ty, had hoped Penelope would hit shots straight around Winnetka Golf Club and become instantly … hooked.
“I actually really, really disliked golf back then,” Tir, now a New Trier junior, admitted earlier this week. “I felt bored. I kept missing the ball.
“I wanted to run around, like you can in soccer.”
Tir had a ball last weekend — on a golf course in downstate Forsyth. The Trevian shot rounds of 73 and 71 at the Class 2A state tournament at the par-72 Hickory Point Golf Course and won it by one stroke over Lincoln-Way Central junior Brianne Bolden (75-70) and Barrington sophomore Caroline Smith (75-70) on Oct. 14.
“The first thing she asked me after her second round was, ‘How did the team do?’ ” NT coach Scott Fricke said.
The team did as well as Tir did. NT (603 strokes) beat runner-up Barrington by 10 strokes to claim the seventh state championship in program history — and third (2010, 2012, 2017) with Fricke at the helm.
Only one other female New Trier golfer (Alexis Wooster, in 2000) had emerged as a state champion before last weekend.
“Penelope’s Saturday round [on Oct. 14] was incredible,” Fricke said.
On the par-four 17 on Oct. 14, Tir cracked her tee shot 50 yards shy of the green. Her second shot landed 20 feet above the pin.
“Tough downhill putt from there,” Fricke said.
Tir — who called that 17th at Hickory Point her favorite hole, because “it’s visually appealing” — then calmly drained it to take a one-stroke lead with one hole left. Tir had birdied the same hole en route to a first-round 71 at state last year.
Tir had no idea where she stood in the individual standings as she exited the course last weekend. One of her teammates, junior Lizzie Kenter, then greeted her with a huge bear hug that, in essence, announced, “You did it!”
Tir placed sixth at state as a freshman and improved to fourth last fall.
“I told Penelope, after she had won state, ‘You were supposed to finish second this year and then improve once again and win it next year as a senior,’ ” Fricke said with a laugh.
Tir got off to a shaky start in the first round, carding a double-bogey six on the first hole. But she birdied the next hole, made par on No. 3 and birdied the par-three No. 4. Tir shot one-over for the rest of her round, pacing NT’s aggregate of 303.
Trevians senior Rachel Rhee shot a 75, followed by freshman Audrey Tir’s 77 and junior Abbie Kaestle’s 78.
Audrey Tir — the team’s low scorer, with a 72, at the Wheaton Academy Sectional at Pheasant Run Golf Resort in St. Charles on Oct. 9 — is Penelope’s younger sister.
“It’ll be nice having those two sisters back next year,” Fricke said.
What was enjoyable for New Trier’s squad at the halfway point at state last weekend: a 10-stroke advantage over its nearest pursuer, Barrington.
Barrington’s Fillies matched the Trevians’ 300 score in the second round. Fricke had 155 reasons to smile on Day 2 when the Trevians’ early finishers (Kenter and senior Megan Gabor) completed rounds of 76 and 79, respectively.
“Lots of insurance with those two scores,” Fricke said.
Audrey Tir ended up in a tie for 23rd place (77-76). Kaestle (78-77) and Kenter (79-76) tied for 30th, and Rhee — a four-year varsity golfer — finished in a tie for 35th place (75-81). Gabor bettered her Day One round by seven strokes with her 79 on Oct. 14.
“We had a great Friday,” Fricke said, adding the conditions on Oct. 13 were wet and sloppy following rainy midweek days in the Decatur area. “To end up with such a big lead after 18 holes, with shots not rolling for everybody on a soggy course, was huge for us … huge.
“And our team depth came through for us.”
Fricke figured at least half of his team enjoyed a deep sleep on the van trip home Oct. 14. Three rounds in three days, including a practice round on Oct. 12, can be exhausting.
State champ Penelope Tir was wide awake on her first day back to school on Oct. 16, a bit behind in her schoolwork — like every state-qualifying golfer — but thrilled to receive countless high fives and hugs and shouts of “Congratulations!” in the hallways.
“It meant a lot to me, to be able to help our team win a state championship,” Tir said. “The team is much more important to me than any individual honor is. Golf, I’ve learned, is all about adjustments, adapting and playing your lies as best you can each day. But the key to golf, really, is staying calm and relaxed during a round.
“I’d never felt as calm and relaxed in a tournament as I did at state last weekend.”
Notable: New Trier girls golf coach Scott Fricke noted junior Lizzie Kenter’s resiliency following her 99 at a regional meet earlier this month lifted his Trevians during the rest of the state series. Kenter improved by 15 strokes at a sectional five days later and then turned in sturdy rounds of 79 and 76 at state last weekend. “To see her rebound from that, probably her highest round in three years, and do what she did for us was great and rewarding,” Frick said. “She was more focused, beginning with the sectional. More patient, too. She knew what was at stake. Lizzie also knew we needed her to play well.” … Fricke served as an assistant to former NT girls golf coach Gary Groh in the 2003 season, when the Trevians captured their fourth straight state championship. Fricke became the varsity’s head coach the following season.
The Ramblers finished eighth (640) at the Class 2A girls golf state tournament last weekend in Forsyth, with senior Nina Rutkowski leading the way with a 30th-place 155 (76-79) at Hickory Point Golf Course. Sophomores Mary Boesen (161) and Grace Kryscio (166) ended up second and third, respectively, among Ramblers. Senior Tatum Koehn and juniors Lilly Gentzkow and Shea Graf also competed for LA.
The Giants’ lone state qualifier, junior Julia Shafir, finished 54th at state in Forsyth, carding a two-day total of 162 (77-85) — tied for the fourth-best state showing in program history. Only two other Giants had shot a lower state round than the 77 Shafir recorded on Oct. 13.
“Excellent performance,” Highland Park coach Cathy Nachman said. “My assistant coach [Jessica Berens] and I are very proud of Julia’s accomplishments this season.”