If Fenwick girls golf coach Joe Konrad isn't careful he's going to talk himself right out of a job. Or is he simply telling the truth?
"I used to call myself a coach," Konrad chuckled recently. "I'm now a van driver. I take them where they need to go. I hate to say it, but that's what I am."
Konrad isn't complaining. It's just the way things are nowadays. Eight or so of the 16 golfers Konrad oversees consult with their own professional instructors on a regular basis during the season. He's not too bent out of shape over it.
"Hey, I'd go to somebody better too if I could," he humbly declared. "At least it takes some of the pressure off me. If a player isn't shooting well she can blame her pro."
Mike Curtin, the head coach of the Fenwick boys' golf team and the Athletic Director at the school, has also been known to call himself a "glorified van driver" on occasion.
"I don't do anything but watch," said Curtin a few weeks ago when his team set out on what looks to be a return trip to State (Tuesday's sectional was after deadline). "These guys know what they're doing."
So if you can't beat'um, join'um. Or let them join you. Fenwick recently announced the addition of White Pines Golf Professional Marty Joyce as an assistant coach. Joyce's past accomplishments?#34;which includes being selected Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year?#34;and experience make Konrad and Curtin merely caddies. But they don't mind.
"Oh heck, Marty is a great guy and a great golfer. Even I listen intently when he's teaching," confessed Konrad. "Who knows I may get some pointers of my own."
There seems to be no confliction. Konrads' Friars (or are they Joyce's?) will return to the State championship for the second year in a row. They boast Erin Sullivan, an outstanding golfer, who along with sister Eileen, Erin Kielty and sophomore phenom Lisa Joyce make Fenwick a viable threat at State.
"They come already prepared and ready to go for the season," added Konrad. "They've played in tournaments over the summer and have usually worked out all the quirks before the season starts. It used to be our teams wouldn't get going until mid-season, but that's changed."
I know what your thinking: Personal golf instructors are only at private schools. Not so. OPRF head coach John Gann bows down to about five different personal golf professionals.
"It's not always ideal, but as long as the [personal] instructors focus mainly on improving the golfer's swing, we'll do the rest," said Gann, himself a self-taught golfer. Gann agrees with the van driver moniker, and added that at times he finds himself more a psychologist than a coach.
"Golf is a mental game. You can have a great stroke but if one little thing seeps into your brain during play, your game can go south in a hurry," he said. "We just do our best to make sure the guys are focused before every round."
There's more to it than mind therapy and van driving. Konrad, Curtin and Gann offer suggestions on wind conditions, tight lies, and how to approach a particular course. Of course these are only suggestions, a distant step down from recommendations.
But sometimes you get bored just driving the van.