Maggie Sloan isn’t planning to study alchemy in college. The T.F. South golfer already knows how to turn one element into another.
Sloan’s ability to turn a bogey into a birdie on Monday vaulted her into the IHSA’s Class AA championship weekend. She’d made a 6 on Coyote Run Golf Course’s par-5 17th, part of her 84, but when she was beckoned to tee it up in a sudden-death playoff, Sloan hammered her second shot onto the green and two-putted for a birdie 4, and the ticket to Hickory Point Golf Course in Forsyth, just outside of Decatur.
Beecher's Jessie Ackman will compete in the Class A meet at Red Tail Golf Course in Decatur.
In the boys meets, Homewood-Flossmoor's Jack Mulligan will compete in the Class 3A meet at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington. In Class 2A, Illiana Christian's Matt Zandstra and Steven Massey will participate in the Class 2A meet at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University. Beecher's Michael Barber qualified for the Class 1A meet at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington.
Actually, it’s not really alchemy, though an outsider might consider her lucky at first glance. In reality, it’s pluck, an inner competitiveness that carries Sloan.
For two years, Sloan has been “the girl” on T.F. South's boys team.
For part of the first year, there were snickers from opposing players on the practice green and first tee. Then, invariably, Sloan would step up and belt a drive down the fairway near, and sometimes beyond, where the boys in the group hit theirs.
And she would often outscore them. As a freshman. A freshman girl.
One who advanced to the championship.
This season, Sloan glommed onto the No. 1 slot on the Rebels. All that experience came into play Monday, first in grinding out the 84, then in the one-hole duel with Nazareth Academy’s Kasey Schaffer for the 10th individual spot.
“I really love stepping up to a hole, maybe a par 5, and I’m thinking ‘Maybe I won’t get a 7 on this hole.’ ” Sloan said last week. “I’ll go for a birdie, actually. I just love that. Switching from boys to girls, I always have the problem of having to back down my shots, almost, and that’s a good problem to have.”
The two years of playing in boys tournaments have made her fearless, no matter whom she plays against.
“Boys, I think they step up and think, ‘I’m going to beat her, of course.’ Then I love to go on the course and show the boys, ‘I can beat you, and I will.’ They all kind of warn each other,” Sloan said.
“I think I’m a lot more experienced and a lot more seasoned. I’ve learned different shots. I’ve always said going to state was one of the most eye-opening things, because I knew I had what to work for. Playing with the boys, I’ve learned keep up with them and to be more aggressive.”
Sloan fired an 85 in her first round of last year’s finals. She only got in three holes before the second round was stopped by thunderstorms, and eventually cancelled. But she got there.
“That was very exciting,” Sloan said. “I still think about that and I get choked up, almost, because I know what I have to do.”
Older sister Samantha Sloan played four years for Marian Catholic before teeing it up for Illinois, and made the IHSA’s championship weekend all for years, improving her scores each season. She finished tied for 68th as a freshman (with rounds of 91-94), when she qualified as an individual, jumped to 11th as a sophomore, fourth as a junior, and a tie for fifth in 2007, her senior year, with her best scores: 74-73–147 at Hickory Ridge in Carbondale.
“I try to compare myself to her, and I know that’s not a good thing, but all kids are going to do it with their older siblings,” Maggie Sloan said. “I love talking to her about it. I learn what I’ve got to do to play at her level. Her advice to me is have fun with it. She committed when she was a junior. She said, ‘Keep your options open. Don’t get really into looking at colleges. They’ll come to you.’ ”
The difference is, unless there’s a sudden influx of girls who can attack par at T.F. South, Maggie Sloan will have to qualify as an individual each year. Two down, two to go.