Mara Janess nearly let the pressure foil her attempt to win the Class 2A girls golf state championship on Saturday.
But Janess, a Barrington sophomore, leaned on senior teammate Caroline Smith to help ease her concerns about playing Glenbrook South’s Maria Perakis in a playoff at Hickory Point Golf Club in downstate Forsyth.
Both players shot a two-round score of 3-over 147 to set up a pressure-packed playoff. Janess won the playoff and became the first player in program history to win an individual state title.
The Fillies had three golfers finish in the top five. In addition to Janess’ first-place finish, Smith placed third (148) and sophomore Sophia Sulkar tied for fifth (149).
Stevenson captured its first team state championship by shooting a four-player, two-round total of 601 — one shot better than the Fillies’ 602. Those were the two lowest team scores in state tournament history.
Janess tied for 19th at state as a freshman. She said she wasn’t fully prepared for the pressure of playing in front of a large crowd for the state title.
“Caroline came sprinting off the course, gave me the biggest hug and said she was so proud of me and it was amazing I was going to the playoffs,” Janess said. “We went to the (driving) range. She walked me through how to prepare myself for it, because I was so nervous.
“She just knew what to say, really kept me calm before the playoff, which definitely helped because I had never been in a situation like that before. There was so much on the line.”
Janess credited her victory to her teammates and the coaches who helped her all weekend. She carded four birdies on the back nine on Saturday.
“It hasn’t set in yet to me,” Janess said Sunday. “I can’t even believe it happened, going from finishing 19th to Saturday’s finish.
"The 13th hole was definitely the switch for me. After I birdied that difficult hole, I had such a good feeling.”
After last season’s state performance, Janess said she started training once a week at TPS Player Service in Downers Grove. Naturally, it was Smith who recommended Janess to the training center.
“They helped with my mental game and my swing,” Janess said. “Caroline recommended it to me, knowing my dream was to play in college. Obviously, that paid off.”
Barrington first-year coach Tim Martin said Janess thrived in the pressure-filled environment.
“Mara is a special athlete,” he said. “She hits the ball so far and is so skilled. She hit an unbelievable tee shot in the playoff. You knew she was in the zone. She made par to win in front of all those people.”
Martin praised Stevenson for winning a classic battle between two programs vying for their first state crown. The Fillies, who finished well ahead of Loyola for second place, were the 2A runners-up for the fourth consecutive season.
The final four holes included three lead changes between Stevenson and Barrington. Smith, a Wake Forest recruit, capped her career with four top-15 individual finishes at state.
“It was an unbelievable weekend of golf,” Martin said. “To have three players finish in the top five in the state tournament is something we’ve never done before at Barrington. Our score would’ve won the state championship at every (previous) year of the state tournament.
“It was high drama with Stevenson from the first tee shot. We played our best golf the last two days of the season. You have to give credit to Stevenson.”
Broncos claim 10th: Barrington rode strong performances from seniors Sean Markham and Dominic Scaletta to finish in 10th place at the Class 3A boys golf state tournament at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington.
Markham tied for 35th place, while Scaletta claimed 39th. Junior Ian Bouchard took 58th and Matthew Lee notched 76th.
The Broncos have qualified for state as a team five times in the last six seasons.
Tournament notes: In Class 1A, the St. Viator girls captured eighth place with a team score of 704 at Red Tail Run Golf Club in Decatur. Junior Cate Reisinger led the Lions with an eighth-place score of 150. Paige Klostermann shot a 178, and Jill Doherty carded a 181.
Prospect senior Kelly Kavanagh capped a solid career by carding a 154 to finish tied for 16th at the 2A girls state tournament. The Drake recruit shot a 35 on the front nine to finish with a 75 on Saturday.
Buffalo Grove’s Dori Lee placed 12th in the Class 3A boys tournament. Hersey’s Henry Quinn tied for 35th in 3A.
Bob Narang is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.