WHEATON – Even as an incoming freshman, Katherine Lemke made it a point to be on St. Francis golf coach Gay Crain’s radar.
“[Lemke] wanted to meet me, wanted to introduce herself [and] wanted to tell me about her game,” said Crain, also a teaching professional at Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton.
“That’s always great, as a coach, to have a player who is invested before you’re even starting,” Crain continued. “She’s always been determined [and] wanting to improve.”
Lemke, now a St. Francis junior, has turned that ambitious start into three consecutive trips to the state golf meet. Her first two seasons for the Spartans, Lemke competed in Class 1A. She tied for 18th in the state as a freshman and took 12th as a sophomore.
St. Francis was bumped up to Class 2A this season, and Lemke again tied for 12th with a 36-hole score of 151.
“This season, she took a huge leap,” Crain said. “She just made exponential improvements in her game and it showed in her results this season.”
Among those improvements, Crain points to Lemke’s growing maturity, leadership, experience gained during the summer and her ability to manage herself on the golf course.
“She was so consistent,” Crain said. “From June all the way through the state tournament. Top finishes, playing against big competition, the moment was never really too big for her. It was great to watch.”
An individual with several medalist honors throughout the season and the individual with the best finish at state in the Kane County Chronicle coverage area, Lemke, a Spartans co-captain, is the 2019 Kane County Chronicle Girls Golfer of the Year.
“She just fits in [with her team],” Crain said. “She doesn’t try to be anything more or less than she is – just another teammate and trying to do her best. She’s always encouraging her teammates to do the same. As a coach, you can’t ask for more than that.”
Lemke has balanced a rigorous schedule between club soccer practice with Team Chicago based in Aurora, golf and, of course, school for her three seasons of high school. Sometimes, she’d have to decide which practice to attend.
“I had a lot of practice [balancing my schedule] in the past, freshman and sophomore year, so this [year] was just kind of me learning from those two years,” Lemke said. “Balancing it, I had made a decision: Golf was definitely my No. 1 priority. ... I didn’t really feel as torn between golf and soccer as I had in the past.
“It was easier for me to just say: ‘I’m going to golf today because golf is what I want to do,’” Lemke continued.
Lemke actually dropped soccer earlier this month, choosing to prioritize golf, improve her summer scores and ramp up her recruiting trail.
“I’m doing more intense golf training this winter [to] see if I can lower my summer tournament scoring average even more. ... I decided if I really, really wanted to be the best I can be, I needed to pick one.”
Kane County Chronicle All-Area Golf Team
Brooke Bayless, St. Charles North, sr.; Paige Breslin, St. Charles East, sr.; Reese Clark, Geneva, so.; Avery Frick, Geneva, sr.; Emily Koh, Burlington Central, jr.; Katherine, Lemke, St. Francis, jr.; Catie Nekola, St. Charles North, so.; Sarah Podjacek, St. Charles East, jr.