Annie Sandrock has a secret weapon. You won't find it in the Prophetstown senior's golf bag. It isn't a lucky piece of apparel.
It's between her ears.
Like her teammates, Sandrock is a standout student. Her favorite subject? Psychology.
"It really is a lot of fun," Sandrock said at Toby's Restaurant at Deer Valley Country Club on Monday evening, her undefeated Prophets' meet just having been rained out. "We're not really far into it, but it's really neat to kind of start seeing how the mind works."
It bears mentioning that her teacher, Kelly Siltman, is also the 15-0 Prophets' golf coach.
"The big thing is that the girls have put the time in during the summer, and they're just mentally tougher than they were, from 1 to 6," Siltman said.
A bad hole? A shanked shot? The Prophets know how to fix that.
"Just move on," Sandrock and fellow 4-year varsity golfer Molly Corbin said in unison.
"These guys buy into that, and that's the difference between last year and this year," Siltman said.
"When we were younger, if we had a bad stroke, it was like, 'Oh man, I'm going to do bad,' " Corbin said. "Now, if we have a bad shot, we know the next one's going to be better to make up for the last one."
Both Corbin and Sandrock have worked hard to improve their short game. Corbin's hitting her irons straighter and truer all the time.
"That's been very helpful, hitting the greens in regulation a lot of the time," she said.
More often than not, Sandrock and Corbin finish 1-2. Corbin, who's got a good shot at finishing No. 1 in her class academically, says her favorite subject is math. It wouldn't take a mathematician to add up Corbin's scores. Hers and Sandrock's averages float between 44 and 45 shots per nine.
Two more seniors in their fourth varsity season, Stephanie Emery and Ella Kramer, have slightly sub-50 averages. Amanda Bertolozzi and Abbey Baker are between 52 and 53.
In a slight betrayal of conventional arithmetic, the Prophets are often stronger than the sum of their parts.
A penny saved
Siltman and several of her players still have the pennies that played a role in the program winning its first regional last October at Maple Bluff Golf Course in Geneseo.
It's not necessarily a lucky penny. Rather, it's a symbol of the team's bond.
Before a postseason round, each Prophet passes a penny, each of their teammates touching it before the original holder slips it into her shoe or pocket.
"It's just a way to know that your team has got your back," Corbin said. "If you're not doing well, everyone else is there for you. Even though they're not literally there."
"They're never on the course by themselves," Siltman said.
Siltman keeps her penny from the 2011 postseason in her gear bag.
"I still have mine in my shoe," Corbin said.
The word is out
Principal Kevin Parker, guidance counselor Kristie Cady and bus driver Karen Wiersema are just a few who have caught the fever.
On Spirit Days at Prophetstown High School, girls golf T-shirts are spreading like a rash.
Siltman, who's been the program's head coach for 7 years, says the team's been making casual shirts for some time. They've sold well in the past – among players, coaches and parents.
Now even the secretaries are rocking their girls golf pride.
Corbin's familiar with the culture of winning, having played basketball for the Prophets.
"But it's just more rewarding to win at golf," Corbin admitted. "Basketball always wins. In golf, it's a new thing."
And the word has spread beyond the high school.
"When I go to church, people come up to me all the time and say, 'Oh, I've been reading about your golf team in the paper,' " Corbin said.
"That feels really good, that people are noticing."
What goes better with winning than sushi?
A lot of things, the Prophets would tell you. Next to golf, food is their area of expertise.
"When we're on our way to meets, we decide where we're eating before we talk golf," Corbin said.
The tradition has deep roots. They planted it in order to offset the sting of losing.
"Back when we weren't winning meets, we had to do something to keep it fun," Siltman said.Winning has a way of bringing out food's flavor.
"It tastes a little better every time," Corbin said.
They've got their favorites. Culver's sits atop that list.
"I think we got 10 free scoops of ice cream one time," Sandrock said.
Most of the players recently tried sushi for the first time last Monday in the Quad Cities.
"I think only the coach went back for seconds," Siltman said.
They nearly missed out on an opportunity to broaden their horizons, thinking they'd come up short against Rockridge in a triangular at Saukie Golf Course in Rock Island.
The parents suggested the players get home to tackle homework. Siltman wasn't having that.
"We eat," she said. "Whether we win or we lose, we eat. That's what we do."
Then it was revealed that the Prophets won by a stroke.
"Then, all of a sudden, everybody was hungry and ready to eat," Siltman said. "I think it sends a good message. I was worried they were going to think, 'OK, we lost. Everybody goes home.' It's like sitting down to supper with your family."
Corbin's optimistic the team can make state. Siltman tries to keep the group grounded.
No matter how it plays out, the season ends with a "family dinner" at Toby's.
Prophetstown postseason dates
• Three Rivers Tournament at Kewanee – 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27
• Class A Rock Falls regional at Rock River Pool & Golf – ???
• Class A Genoa-Kingston Secional at The Oak Club of Genoa – Monday, Oct. 8