Sarah Capel’s golf swing is a motion designed to look effortless in part due to the countless hours of training she puts in during the summers.
Capel lacked concrete goals entering the season while dealing with an ongoing pandemic, but that didn't keep the Lady Wildcat from shining in the sport she loves. Aside from leading Marion to a 26-4 record with a perfect record of 13-0 in conference, Capel enjoyed the fruits of her labor as a regional champion on her own home course.
A goal that Capel was thrilled to chase.
“I really didn’t know what this year would hold with the pandemic,” Capel said following her junior season. “When I found out we would host regionals I knew that I wanted to win at Kokopelli. I wanted to show those powerhouse schools that Southern Illinois schools have it down here and give those teams a run for their money.”
Capel’s team ended up placing third in their regional, but it wasn’t at the fault of her own. After carding a 74, she was proud to have only missed out on the second-place Edwardsville team by three strokes, while also advancing as an individual to the Class 2A Sectional at the University of Illinois Golf Course, hosted by Champaign Centennial.
Marion coach JoAnna Galloway believes Capel and teammate Baylee Kelly would have had the support of their team in sectionals during a normal year.
“In a regular year, we would have gone to sectionals as a team,” said Galloway. “There they would have had the whole team’s support behind them to cheer them on.”
Capel carded an 82 in Champaign’s Sectional for a 12th place finish that placed her eight spots ahead of Kelly. When it comes to her teammates and coaches, it seems the only thing Capel cherishes more is her family.
“My team is incredible,” said Capel. “They support me and push me in every aspect of life; Ava Lewis is like a big sister to me and I don’t know what I’ll do next year without her. Avery Cornett showed real potential and pushed me to be better, while Emma Pyatt really stepped up too. I’m excited to see what the team looks like next year.”
Capel will be joined by Cornett and Kelly as Marion’s senior group in 2021. When asked what she would be taking away from this season, Capel said it’s the memories she’ll cherish the most from playing with her friends.
“I’d say the highlight of my season was that I ended up playing at sectionals with one of my best friends (Natalie Messinger) from Alton,” said Capel. “There’s a video of our final fist bump and it was really special for us after we didn’t think we’d have a postseason.”
Having a support system at home has been one of the biggest blessings for Capel. Between her mother Marsha, father John and sister Chelsea, the entire family knows how to swing a golf club and cheer on one another. Capel leaned on her older sister growing up since Chelsea played at John A. Logan back in 2013.
“My parents are phenomenal and support me in whatever decisions I make,” said Capel. “They give up so much of their summers just to follow me around and take me to tournaments. God could not have given me better parents because they push me in my faith.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”
While growing up, Capel played basketball and ran track before undergoing foot surgery last November that forced her into giving up competitive running. That energy and focus has since been transmitted into golf, and it’s not often Capel isn’t working with her swing coach Andy Church at Crab Orchard Golf Club.
“I know her golf coach and he is a terrific guy for her to train with during the summers,” said Galloway. “Sarah is just a lovely person and a joy to coach. With her I don’t have to explain things, and you saw it in her eyes on the day of regionals.”
Queue: Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger or AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.
“She had this look of confidence that you could tell...she has this. I saw her take shots that day that I’ve never seen her do, but she wasn’t nervous about it, she just went for it. Her family is so supportive and she would do anything in the world for the people around her.”
Up next for Capel is her senior season where she hopes to draw more college attention. Until then, you can find her on the golf course working on her short game — a “fallout” of her 2020 game that she intends to fasten.
“Next year it’s going to be building a lot of my strength,” said Capel. “I would love to play D1 golf, it’s been a goal of mine since I was young. Whatever is in God’s Plan, I know he has something good in store for me.”
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