The sport of golf has been around a long time at OPRF High School, but it hasn't looked like this in decades.
Doug Brown, an 18-year coaching veteran of football at OPRF, has taken over the golf program this season, and his first order of business was developing an all girls team. In the past, OPRF's female golfers were forced to play on the boys team.
"This was just something I felt was necessary at this point," said Brown, who coached the sophomore football team at OPRF and was a quarterbacks coach on varsity. "If the numbers continue to be there every year, there's no reason why this shouldn't take off."
Rounding out the OPRF girls' golf team this year are Ashley Clark, Alison Monks, Erin Flanagan, Kelsey Flannery, Morgan McCall, Colleen Hardin, and Sad'e Smith. Monks, a sophomore this year, played with the boys on varsity last season.
"Alison averaged around 50 in four matches last season, but I believe that will be lower this year," said Brown. "She's been playing quite well to start the season, so I think she'll end up shooting in the mid-40s."
Brown said despite having to coach both the boys and girls teams this season, he's going to be taking a more personal approach to the position.
"I'm going to give them all the help they need. If I can't help them, then we'll find someone who can, whether it's a golf pro or whomever," he said. "I have two great assistant coaches (Bill Rogalla and Joe Parenti) helping me out and a team manager in Jonathon Darnall for the boys, so we should have everything covered. It's going to be a more organized program."
The girls team won't be able to participate in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference until next season, but Brown already has nonconference matches lined up against tough teams like cross-town rival Fenwick (Aug. 23) and Ridgewood (Aug. 21).
OPRF boys golf
Before Brown arrived, the OPRF boys golf team was in need of a makeover. Last season, the Huskies finished near the bottom of the West Suburban (Silver) Conference and advanced just three players into the sectionals during the state playoffs. This year's squad is young with nowhere to go but up.
Dan Gerber is just one of two seniors on the team. Gerber's averaging in the low 40s for nine holes due to an impeccable short game, according to Brown. Juniors Dan Kowalczyk, Jacob Wilson and Paul Econonos have also been teetering in the low 40s this summer and are expected to make a significant impact. Kowalczyk led the Huskies at the Elmhurst Regional last year by shooting an 80 in the 18-hole tourney.
Other notables are senior Ihwan Yoo and sophomore Chris Rigas. Brown also said he's not averse to moving up some players from the Frosh-Soph team down the road. Two players who have impressed Brown are freshman Eric Bybulski and sophomore Nick McKenna.
"It's definitely not out of the question that these guys or others could move up," said Brown. "We just have to see where we are after a few tournaments."
As part of the program's upgrade, Brown said he's added new jerseys, golf balls, ball markers, and tees, all with OPRF's Huskie logo.
"I told them if we don't do well this season, well, then at the very least, we'll look good," he said.
Kidding aside, Brown said the goal this season is better course management. "We're not going to be taking absurd second shots, or laying up when we know we have the power to shoot a green," he said. "Myself and the assistant coaches are going to be involved in their play more."
The Huskies travel to The Highlands Golf Course Friday to compete in the Larkin Invitational.