By Randy Whalen
Athena Kwon remembers it well.
“Last year we lost by two strokes,” the Sandburg junior said of her Sandburg squad losing the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division title at the conference tournament meet. “That’s two putts, those little tiny putts, and they haunt you.
This year, there was no haunting putts for Sandburg. That’s because, led by a 74 from Kwon, the Eagles shot a 326 and soared to the conference championship on Oct. 1 at Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park.
“This is what we wanted, this is what we were aiming for,” Kwon said. “The key for me was just trying to hit it consistently.”
Lincoln-Way East (339), which was paced by sophomore Natalie Papa (80, 2nd overall) was second, just ahead of defending champion Lockport Township (343), which was led by junior Claire Ancevicius (82, third overall). Bolingbrook (435) was third and Homewood-Flossmoor (451) rounded out the five-team field.
It was the sixth SWSC Blue title in the past seven seasons for the Eagles, but their first in two years.
“We’re really proud of the girls and it was a fantastic job shooting a 326,” Sandburg coach Todd Allen said. “This is a very tough conference with Lincoln-Way East and Lockport.”
All the carded scores for the Eagles made All-Conference. In addition to Kwon, who shot a 37 on both the front and back nine, junior Joanna James (82), freshman Jillian Cosler (83), and senior Katie Fleming (87). The rest of the Sandburg scores were junior Nicole Robertson (93), junior Sarah Wardlow (94), sophomore Katie Mikso (96) and junior Grace Krueger (97).
“We are always connected as a team and that allows us to play very well,” Fleming said. “I’ve learned from coach Allen to stay mentally focused and to focus on each shot. Also to just push through.”
Allen has seen his team push through numerous times over the years. The Eagles advanced to state three straight years from 2013 to 2015. They hope to be in position to get there next week too.
“We’ve had a really good season,” Allen said. “We were second at the Homewood-Flossmoor Co-ed and went 8-2 in dual meets with the only losses to Hinsdale Central and Lincoln-Way East.
“Athena Kwon was very solid. She was at state last year and has done very well all year for us.”
Sandburg, Lincoln-Way East, Lockport and last seasons Class AA third place team, Lincoln-Way Central are all going to be in the same regional. That is on Thursday, Oct. 10 and is hosted by Andrew at Odyssey Golf Course in Tinley Park.
Kwon, who tied for 15th in the state individually last year, hopes the Eagles can advance out of the regional and beyond.
“As a team [at the conference meet] we just tried to not get into our heads and not think about too much,” Kwon said. “Just think about the next shot and save our scores. That’s what coach Allen emphasized.
“This is a good start. I’ve never got to state with the team. So I hope to go again but go as a team.”