Hampshire grad Farinella wins McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournament

Hampshire graduate Gianna Farinella tees off on the second hole during a McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournament Thursday at Randall Oaks Golf Club in West Dundee.
Hampshire graduate Gianna Farinella tees off on the second hole during a McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournament Thursday at Randall Oaks Golf Club in West Dundee.

WEST DUNDEE – Hampshire graduate Gianna Farinella grabbed her clubs and headed north when Illinois courses shut down in late March as part of the state's initial stay-at-home order.

"I went to some ranges in Wisconsin, anywhere I could find some space," Farinella said. "Anything to stay swinging."

On Thursday, Farinella was one of 46 golfers to swing away at Randall Oaks Golf Club in the second McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournament of the season. The MCJGA started its 20th season Tuesday at the Golf Club of Illinois, with 13 more events planned through Aug. 6.

Golf courses across the state closed for the entire month of April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they reopened May 1 with some restrictions, including staying in groups of two and closing driving ranges, putting greens and clubhouses, among others.

On May 29, restrictions were loosened as the state entered Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan. Groups of three and four now are permitted, in addition to a 10-minute spread between tee times (instead of 15 in Phase 2), single-rider carts with members of the same family, forecaddies and outdoor dining.

The MCJGA implemented additional safety measures this summer to its normal code of conduct. Instead of checking in at a registration table (normally inside the clubhouse), golfers check in on the first tee. Golfers get scorecards but do no exchange or sign cards. Scores are reviewed and tallied by an MCJGA official and posted online.

Farinella shot a career-best 6-over-par 77 to win the girls senior division, followed by Nina Shaffer (80) and Molly Baker (83). Shaffer and Baker both will be seniors at Huntley in the fall.

Farinella's career round included her first eagle, on the par-4 No. 7.

Thursday marked the start of the third year that Farinella has played in MCJGA events. The familiarity of courses, local feel and camaraderie of golfers is what makes the events so special, she said.

"I can play with my friends, with all of these girls that I know now, and just come out and have fun," Farinella said. "Not have the pressure of winning a huge tournament. It’s a nice way to stay in the tournament mindset."

In the boys senior division, Richmond's Caleb Stinespring, who will be a senior at Kenosha Christian Life Wisconsin, took first with a 9-over 79. Huntley's Trevor Book and Evan Bendis were one shot behind the leader with 80s. Book and Bendis are going into their senior years.

Stinespring is hoping to attract the interest of college coaches by playing in more events this summer. A long summer vacation a year ago didn't allow him to play as much golf as he wanted.

"I'm trying a lot to get noticed this year," Stinespring said. "I'm reaching out to them, and I do think that these tournaments are a really good way to show them what I can do."

Book played in MCJGA's first event Tuesday, while Bendis was playing in his first tournament of the summer.

"It was nice to get out," Bendis said. "I was really excited. My putting was good, and I hit it on the green a lot."

"I was able to get out before this and play a little at Boulder Ridge, and I also have a simulator at my house," Book said. "But just to get back to tournaments was really nice because I got to see my friends. And I had fun – that's what's most important."

Danny Saville, a sophomore-to-be at Prairie Ridge, won the boys junior division title with an 83. Crystal Lake Central's Christian Wakeford, a junior in the fall, and Nathan Elm, an incoming freshman at Huntley, both shot 86s.

In the girls junior division, Cary's Delaney Medlyn took first with a nine-hole 49. Huntley incoming freshman Aubrey Dingbaum (54) and Hampshire sophomore-to-be Lily Farnam (56) were second and third, respectively.

Farinella, who will play on the women's golf team at NCAA Division III University of Dubuque in the fall, got a late start to the sport, swinging her first clubs the summer before freshman year of high school.

Farinella was relieved when she found out that MCJGA tournaments still were being played.

"I was a little worried about the late start because I’m going to college in the fall," Farinella said. "I was worried I wasn’t going to get any practice in. I'm just happy they are still going on."

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