MARENGO – Hampshire's Gianna Farinella had serious doubts when she started to play golf four years ago.
"I started golfing my freshman year, and all of the girls had big goals of making all-conference and making it past regionals," Farinella said. "I thought, 'There's no way I can ever do that.' Just knowing that I can and play with these girls that killed me two and three years ago, it means the world to me."
After four years of hard work, Farinella finally had the breakthrough she was looking for. The Whip-Purs senior shot a 94 and took the 10th and final individual sectional qualifying spot at the Class 2A Huntley Regional at Blackstone.
Farinella was one of three local golfers to advance to Monday's Prospect Sectional at Mount Prospect Golf Club. Jacobs senior Lauren Kempf tied for fourth with a 9-over-par 81. Roslyn Leitner, also from Jacobs, shot an 89 to advance for the third time in her final season.
Huntley, which won the Fox Valley Conference title for the first time last week, advanced as a team with a score of 351. Geneva sophomore Reese Clark had an even-par 72 to earn medalist honors, leading the Vikings (322) to their first regional title. Geneva was 19 shots ahead of runner-up St. Charles North (341).
Farinella, who hopes to play in college, and Whips coach Sue Ellett counted scores as the final results trickled in. The nerves were at an all-time high for Farinella, who said she's normally relaxed.
"I have a lot of experience with these, but I almost felt like I was going to throw up," Farinella said of watching the final scores come in. "We counted it up as the scores came in, and I kind of knew where I stood.
"Even to get 10th, just to say that I did it, and I achieved this for myself, it really means a lot."
Kempf will make her second straight sectional appearance. It started to rain as Kempf walked to the green on the par-4 18th, but that didn't seem to bother the Golden Eagles senior, who birdied the hole.
"I was really happy to finish with a birdie. My teammates were out there screaming and cheering," Kempf said. "I felt pretty confident going in. I knew driver wasn't going to be the play every hole. I was going to have to hit a lot of 3-woods and hybrids."
Senior Katie Matustik and junior Molly Baker both had 86s to lead Huntley, which finished six shots ahead of St. Charles East for the final team qualifying spot. Junior Lorelei Oomens carded an 87, and junior Nina Shaffer had a 92 to round out the scoring.
Matustik is going to sectionals for the third time in four years, advancing as an individual last season and advancing with the team as a freshman in 2016. Shaffer is a two-time qualifier.
Matustik came close to a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th, missing by a foot, she said. That did not dampen her mood, however.
"I'm excited to go back," Matustik said. "I feel like we're a lot stronger than we were two years ago. I'm hoping to make it to state and have one last good round, give my all and really show my best effort."
STAR OF THE MEET
Lauren Kempf, Jacobs, sr.
Kempf tied for fourth, shooting a 9-over-par 81 to advance to sectionals for the second straight year.
72: Geneva’s Reese Clark was medalist with a 72.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Huntley took third with a 351 and qualified for sectionals for the second time in four years.
Class 2A Huntley Girls Golf Regional
at Blackstone, par 72
Medalist: Reese Clark (Geneva) 72
Team scores (top 3 advance to sectionals): 1. Geneva 322, 2. St. Charles North 341, 3. Huntley 351, 4. St. Charles East 357, 5. Burlington Central 365, 6. Jacobs 387, 7. Hampshire 405, 8. South Elgin 419, 9. Kaneland 427, 10. Dundee-Crown 536
Top-10 advancing individuals (not on advancing teams): 1. Emily Koh (BC) 81, 2. Paige Breslin (SCE) 81, 3. Lauren Kempf (Jac) 81, 4. Katherine Marshall (K) 82, 5. Sarah Podjacek (SCE) 85, 6. Gabby Garza (SE) 88, 7. Roslyn Leitner (Jac) 89, 8. Allison Yohanan (D) 89, 9. Kelsey O’Connor (BC) 94, 10. Gianna Farinella (Hamp) 94
Geneva (322): Reese Clark 72, Kaylin Johnson 76, Colleen Rutledge 86, Avery Frick 88
St. Charles North (341): Catie Nekola 75, Brooke Bayless 82, Isabella Spinazze 89, Sophia Evans 95
Huntley (351): Katie Matustik 86, Molly Baker 86, Lorelei Oomens 87, Nina Shaffer 92