Mattoon's Kira Wolf and Tanner Romine are no strangers to the Class 2A state golf meet. For Wolf, who is a junior, it's her third time competing at the state meet. Romine, who is a senior, went to state as a sophomore when the Green Wave qualified as a team two years ago.
Both of them have the same goals as they compete in the 2A state meet. Wolf and Romine each won an individual sectional title on Monday and now both think they have a shot at competing for the 2A individual title at their respective state meets.
Wolf was in contention for an individual state title last year at Decatur's Hickory Point Golf Club, which is where this year's state meet will once again be held. Wolf was in a four-way tie for first place. However, the second day didn't go as well. None of the girls Wolf was tied with won the individual state title either as New Trier's Penelope Tir came from a shot back to win it. Wolf shot a five-over 79 and finished in 14th place and she missed out on All-State honors, which she earned as a freshman with a sixth-place finish.
Wolf said last year's second day at the state meet was a disappointment but it also was a good lesson.
"Especially being tied for the lead in the first day and then I didn't come back as well the second day. It taught me to keep pushing and things may get bad but just come back and put in a good score," Wolf said. "I definitely think I have a chance of winning it and if not, I think I am good enough to get in the top 10. I just have to put together two good scores."
Wolf said this year feels different than the last two years, too.
"My freshman and sophomore year I was pretty nervous going to state but now I have it under my belt and I am not as nervous this year because I know what to expect and I know I can do it. I am more calm," Wolf said. "I know the course really well and I feel comfortable there and I know I can shoot low scores there, which is a good feeling to have."
The second day was the only bad round Wolf has had at the state meet. On the first day of her first appearance at state as a freshman, Wolf was only a shot off the lead with a 72, which was even par and tied for eighth place. She shot a two-over 74 on the next day and moved up two spots to sixth place. Then there was last year's even-par 72 after the first day.
Wolf will have plenty of competition at state again this year. Benet Academy's Lauren Beaudreau, who finished in second place at state two years ago, and Barrington's Nicole Ciskowski, who didn't medal at state the last two years, each shot a 68 at sectionals. DeKalb's Emma Carpenter, who finished in 10th place at state two years ago, shot a 69 at the same sectional and Barrington's Caroline Smith, who was the runner-up at state last year, shot a 69. Tir added a 73 at her sectional.
But Wolf has golfed with those girls either at state in the past couple of years or during summer events. She's been able to keep up with those girls and finished ahead of some of them at those events. So Wolf knows she can shoot low enough to compete for a state title.
"It shows me that I am just as good as anyone there and I can compete and win it. This year I just have to keep pushing through all of the hard times and get it done," Wolf said. "I know a lot of the girls really well. On my first day tee times, I know all of the girls I am playing with and that's a good thing to know and be with them."
For Romine, getting qualified for state was the biggest hurdle. At sectionals last year, Romine shot a 101, far off from the scores he put up throughout the season. This year he completely redeemed himself. He almost shot 30 strokes lower and in doing so, Romine won the sectional title with a 72.
"I am feeling great and more confident going into this week. It's a great feeling to be back (at state). Last year we didn't quite make it and this year I was determined I was going to go back (to state) for sure," Romine said. "Last year I felt I was capable. I always go into (a tournament) to try and go for the win but if not, making it to state was my second goal. I accomplished both and it was great."
Romine said a good amount has changed in the last year, especially with his mental game more than his game on the course.
"Last year was tough. I was dealing with some mental struggles with the game the last couple of years and this year I kind of figured out a way to get by them," Romine said. "There is always a little bit of doubt when you are playing. Especially when you are doing really well or bad, it's hard to get back on track mentally. Sometimes those got the best of me. But this year I focused more on staying positive and focus on the execution of the shots rather than the results."
Romine's 72 at the sectional was tied for the lowest at any sectional. Belleville Althoff Catholic's Avery Irwin always shot a 72 at Romine's sectional. Romine won the playoff hole. Bloomington's T.J. Barger and St. Viator's Nolan Doherty each shot a 72 at their sectionals. Pontiac's Griffin Nyi shot a 73 at his sectional. There were a few lower scores at the regionals but Romine thinks he can compete for a state title at Normal's Weibring Golf Club.
The 72 shows just how well Romine has been playing this season, especially over the past two months. That has given Romine the confidence he needs to shoot for a state title.
"It would be nice to get All-State and that's a dream come true but you always have to go for the home run which is to win state. As (Eastern Illinois) coach (Mike) Moncel tells me, you always want to shoot your goals high because just short of that isn't too bad," Romine said. "I feel like I've got a good shot going into this. I am feeling confident and my game is at a good point. My game period has just improved. I am hitting the ball more accurate and I played Weibring over the summer. I know the course as anyone else and I feel like I have a chance."