At the challenging Red Tail Run in Decatur, three of our area girls golf teams in Benet Academy, Waubonsie Valley, and Neuqua Valley each advanced to day two and finished in the top 8 in class 2A. For the Redwings, this created a feeling of redemption just one year after the team missed the day two cut by only two spots. Golfers like juniors Audrey Wake, Kerrigan Riley, and Isabelle Grane and senior Audrey Simkus helped led the charge all season long. But the straw that stirred the drink was Jenna Shilts, who took her swing to another level at the second day of state. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.
“I was just trying to enjoy the moment being at my last high school event, so I wanted to go out there and play solid golf no matter the placement. So I was just happy to place at a good spot,” said Benet Academy senior golfer Jenna Shilts.
Shilts saves her best for last
That spot happened to be second place as an individual by just two strokes behind champion Kaylee Dwyer from Lincoln Way West. Entering her second day four shots behind the leaders, Shilts sunk an eagle on hole 3 that immediately put her into contention. Despite pulling into a tie for the lead later in the day, Dwyer was able to hold on for the individual title with a 144 two day score while Shilts turned in a 146.
“It was a rush of emotions it was definitely a pretty intense round, so I was happy I finished and placed well,” said Shilts.
Following similar footsteps
The performance goes down as the second-best individual finish for the Wings, only behind 2018 state champion Lauren Beaudreau. Shilts was only in seventh grade at the time, but Beaudreau was a golfer Shilts looked up and wanted to follow a similar path. Head Coach Mike Bremner had the privilege of watching talents like Shilts and Beaudreau succeed during his tenure at Benet. To this day, Bremner loves seeing support from alumni cheering on the next generation of Redwing athletes.
“Lauren was pulling for Jenna because she wanted another Benet girl to be State champion. So Jenna is in really good company to be right at the top of the girls that played for me in the ten years I’ve been coaching,” said Benet Academy girls golf coach Mike Bremner.
“She left a huge mark on this program and is someone who is a really great role model not only for myself but for everyone on the team with her incredible golf game,” said Shilts.
Two years after Beaudreau’s heroics, Jenna Shilts did try out and made the Benet golf team as a freshman, but schedule conflicts with numerous golf tournaments and an interest in figure skating kept her from playing high school her first year. However, by the end of her sophomore year, she knew it was time to return to the links for the Redwings, which was more than welcome news to Coach Bremner.
“I had a meeting in my room, and she showed up. So I talked to her after and asked are you potentially interested, or is this a go? So she said this is happening, and I knew almost immediately we were going to have a number one that was going to be an ace for us the next two years,” said Bremner.
A great two-year run
In only two seasons, Shilts has now left her own major mark on the program. She helped Benet to back-to-back regional team championships to go with winning the regional individual title in both seasons. One of her most famous shots was in the 2022 regional, where Shilts sank a bridie with a nice backspin to find the hole, which left the then-junior speechless.
After qualifying for state in back-to-back seasons, this year’s trip was especially memorable, with Shilts taking home the runner-up medal, a hole-in-one from sophomore Reina Maceren and the team finishing in 6th place overall, the best in program history.
Teeing off for the Big Ten
Now, with her high school run coming to an end, Jenna Shilts is taking her talents to the University of Michigan, where she will tee off for the Wolverines golf team next fall. While she is excited for her new chapter, Benet Academy will always have a special place in her heart.
“I enjoyed my time here so much this is such an incredible program, and I will definitely miss the camaraderie of all the girls and the support we have for each other through all of our matches,” said Shilts.
For more prep sports highlights, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!