Crystal Lake Central's Renata Petersen had to work extra hard this season to get the attention of college coaches with many of them unable to follow her on the golf course because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Over the summer, Petersen signed up for larger and national tournaments, recorded career-best rounds and was ranked on JuniorGolfScoreboard.com, a recruiting tool used by college coaches.
Petersen’s determination and work paid off this week as the Crystal Lake Central co-op standout announced her commitment to Northern Illinois. Petersen, a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection as a junior, had also been talking to Loyola.
“A lot of girls last year got that opportunity, but it wasn’t going to happen for me,” Petersen said. “I knew it was going to be impossible for them to come out and watch, so I had to prove myself with my scores, and just practice really hard. It’s definitely a dream come true. It was hard. The only coaches that could watch me were from Division III schools. It was a disadvantage to my class.”
The process was quick, Petersen said, with the NCAA Division I Huskies reaching out within the past few weeks. She had a tour of the school over Zoom with coaches before they offered her a spot. Petersen then drove around campus with family.
The NIU athletic facilities really stood out to Petersen.
“On one of their indoor football fields, they have a net that pulls down and it’s a dome you can hit into, and I think that’s pretty cool for the winter,” Petersen said. “And one of their courses is Rich Harvest Farms (in Sugar Grove), which is one of the most prestigious courses in the state. I just know that I’m going to improve a lot in the program.”
Petersen saw steady improvement in her game when she started taking private lessons at TPS Player Service n Downers Grove.
“They taught me a lot about mental toughness, and I think one of the biggest reasons I wasn't at that level last year was because my mental toughness was almost nonexistent. I’d have a double bogey and just give up. I learned you have to control what you can and not really worry about the score.”
For the second straight year, Petersen took medalist honors with an 83 and ended the regular season as the FVC points champion, which combines dual meets and conference tournament finishes. Petersen finished as a sectional qualifier all four years on varsity. A state tournament was not held this year because of the pandemic.
Winning the FVC Tournament individual championship was extra special for Petersen.
Petersen's grandma, Judy Petersen, would regularly take Renata to Crystal Woods in Woodstock, where the FVC tournament is held, when she was starting out in golf at 6 years old.
“She took me out on the golf course when my dad had to work, and she was so patient with me when I was whiffing every time,” Renata Petersen said. “She’s definitely played a big role in my life of becoming who I am today."
Petersen said that she will miss the team pasta parties before big tournaments with Crystal Lake Central co-op, which combines golfers from Central, Crystal Lake South and Cary-Grove. At NIU, she looks forward to better competition.
“I’ve never been on a team where all of the girls go to the same school, so that’s something I’m excited about in college," she said. "Playing against better players will make me a better player, too, and that's the only way that I can improve."