Evanston’s boys golf team put it all together Wednesday at the Central Suburban League South division meet.
And it was a freshman – Kieran Low – who showed them the way.
Low fired a blistering 1-under-par 71 to capture runner-up honors in the individual competition and the Wildkits placed third in the team standings with a score of 305 that matched their best-ever performance at the league Championship meet.
Low, senior Jamie Young (eighth at 77) and senior Ryder Bellios (ninth at 78) all scored top 10 finishes at the meet, held at Memorial Golf Course, adjacent to the Great Lakes Naval training center. Low registered the best individual finish for a Wildkit golfer since Jackson Mihevc earned back-to-back runner-up honors in 2012 and 2013.
Just as satisfying for head Coach Jed Curtis is the fact that Evanston is starting to save its best golf for the postseason on an annual basis. The Wildkits put up their best team score in 2021 at the Sectional tournament, and Wednesday’s effort enabled Evanston Township High School to climb past two teams (Maine South and Glenbrook South) that it lost to during the dual meet portion of the season.
New Trier outscored Defending state Champion Glenbrook North 292-297 for the team title, followed by ETHS (305), Glenbrook South (314), Maine South (314) and Niles West (343). That total of 305 for the Kits matched their lowest score under Curtis since the 2007 Squad also shot a 305 on its way to a second-place team finish.
Wednesday, Evanston also counted a 79 by David Castellini. Also competing for the Wildkits were Will Wagner (85), Nick Ghate (88) and Jack Clair (92).
Low, Young and Bellios have taken turns posting the team’s lowest scores during the regular season – but rarely on the same day.
That all changed on Wednesday when the Kits all rose to the occasion.
“We finally had four [good] scores, not just two or three,” Curtis declared. “It was windy, and the greens were fast, but our guys put it all together and played brilliant golf. I’m certainly joyful and proud of the kids, but I wasn’t surprised. I knew we had this in us as a team, and now is when things really start to count.
“This is the strongest conference in the state of Illinois and to take third in this conference is very, very satisfying. We had some tough times during the season [losing four dual meets by a single shot], but I tried to stay positive because I knew we still hadn’t played our best golf. And I still feel that way.”
It will be hard for Low to top Wednesday’s performance. The freshman standout carded five birdies and was in contention to capture medalist honors until New Trier’s Tyler Greenspan fired a late eagle and finished at 4-under-par 68.
Low earns extra credit for the homework he did earlier in the season to prepare for big moments. Curtis gave him a copy of the book The Art of Putting by Stan Utley and Low was able to apply the lessons he had learned on Wednesday.
“I read that book and my putting has been pretty good for the last month and a half,” Low pointed out. “Most of the other parts of my game had been pretty good, so I worked more on my putting. In the book they went over the basics of the stroke and how to set it up better, and that was something I was able to get fixed.
“I’m definitely happy with second place. I feel like I played a solid round of golf today. After 13 or so holes I was 1-under, and I checked the Leaderboard and saw that he [Greenspan] was 3-under, so I thought I could win it with a couple more birdies. But he shot that eagle and that was that.”
Ironically, Low had to endure some adversity when he recorded back-to-back three-putt showings on the No. 9 and No. 10 holes. Curtis stepped in with some advice to keep the freshman’s round from blowing up.
“Kieran has worked so hard on his game and he can be a perfectionist at times,” observed the coach. “It’s what you do when you hit a speed bump that really counts. They went from 1-under to 1-over and I told him here’s that moment, this is where you learn something about yourself. He buckled down and birdied the next hole – and I think that was a turning point for him, to be able to power through that. It was a big growth moment.”
Low felt he had a solid enough all-around game in his Arsenal to earn a spot in the varsity lineup his first year of high school. “But I didn’t know anyone on the team and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s been a really fun and really enjoyable experience. All the other guys are kinda like older brothers to me now and they’ve been really supportive of me. I really enjoy the team aspect of golf now.
“I do feel that now there will be some expectations for me to do well at the regional and sectional, but I’ll just try to block that out, stay focused on my game – and do what I can do.”
Evanston will compete in the Class 3A regional tournament at Wilmette Golf Club on Sept. 28. The top three scoring teams there will advance to the Conant Sectional on Oct. 3.