Walking off the green at the Class 1A Auburn Sectional last year, Effingham senior Marah Kirk missed making it to the state tournament by two strokes.
Kirk shot a 92, with the cut for the state tournament ending at 90. She was one of three golfers within two strokes of making it.
Now, heading into her senior year with the Effingham girls golf team, Kirk is poised to turn that negative moment into a positive one.
“It’s pushed me harder,” Kirk said. “I’ve been working all summer, getting some lessons at the country club, and then playing holes with my dad, but I’m ready.
“I want to make it to state.”
Kirk’s journey to this point has never been an easy path, though.
Flaming Hearts’ head coach Jerry Trigg recalls when Kirk first started playing as a freshman.
“As a freshman, she was a skinny, little weakling,” Trigg joked. But, she decided she wanted to learn to play golf and play it well. So, she bought into the program and made a huge difference. The only way that works is if you work hard at it, and she’s worked hard.”
Over her first two years, Kirk averaged a score anywhere between 110-120.
Then, as a junior, she dropped that number by nearly 30 strokes, finishing the year with scores between 83-93.
But even with that dramatic decline, Kirk knows there is always room for improvement.
“This summer, I’ve been working on my swing to ensure it’s structurally good,” Kirk said. “I think I’ve improved my distance, making sure my drives go longer, my irons go a little purer.”
That improvement isn’t all self-taught, though.
Kirk said she gives a lot of credit to Eastern Illinois University head men’s and women’s golf coach Mike Moncel, who helps her in the offseason.
Moncel added that Kirk’s game has a “high ceiling.”
“She worked at it and has improved quite a bit,” said Moncel over a text message. “The best part is that there is much room to grow and improve. She and I have been pretty busy this summer and didn’t get to work as much as needed, so there is a high ceiling for her game.”
Trigg added that Kirk’s love for the game and the fact that golf is the only sport she plays helps her in that regard.
“I think she loves golf so much that she spends all her free time thinking about playing golf. If she’s not playing golf, she’s thinking about it,” Trigg said.