The OPRF golf team won’t have to look far for steep competition early in the season.
In an effort to have his golfers fresh come playoff time, OPRF head coach John Gann reversed the team’s schedule. Gann loaded most of the tournaments to the beginning of the season, leaving the bulk of the dual matches for later. Late in the season, he wants his players eager to be on the golf course instead of dreading another round.
“In the past I’ve seen guys worn out by the end of the regular season, and they’re tired of being on the golf course,” he said. “This gives them an opportunity to work out the quirks early, and then be fired up for more rounds by the end of the season. Things needed to be slowed down so they could focus on what needed to be done during the conference tournament and beyond.”
The one negative, Gann noted, was that his players might struggle early to find their grooves, which was the case late last week. The Huskies closed out the St. Ignatius tournament at Dunne National with a team score of 361, far from top finisher Edwards (318).
The good news is OPRF has six seniors returning to the lineup this season. The bad news is last year’s top golfers Brad Schwarz, Kevin Economos, Don Emery, and Matt Kowalczyk have graduated. The only holdovers from last year’s third-place regional team are Graham Holgren and Clayton Young.
Holgren, Gann said, averaged 80 over the summer, and is expected to lead the squad this year. Young, who shot an 80 in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference tournament and an 82 at regionals last year is still working out the quirks, according to Gann.
“Clayton shot a 98 at St. Ignatius and that’s out of character for him. He’s much better than that,” said Gann following the St. Ignatius tournament. “I’m confident he’ll get things worked out soon.”
In fact, as if hearing his coach’s words, Young shot an 84 at the rain-sprinkled Elgin Invitational on Friday. Along with Holdren’s top score of 77, the Huskies finished with a 340. Batavia won the tourney with a 304. Gann called his team’s finish at Elgin a “vast improvement.”
Others expected to contribute this season include Ben Brown, Pete Buer, Matt Linder, Connor Roche, and sophomore Dan Kowalczyk, who was forced out of the St. Ignatius tournament with a back spasm. Linder shot an 89 at Elgin, while both Buer and Roche finished with 90s. Making his first appearance in varsity competition, Dan Gerber shot a 91 for OPRF.
Not only did the Huskies lose most of its lineup last year, but the program has had to move over to a new country club for its home matches. Due to construction at Oak Park Country Club in River Grove, OPRF will host its conference matches at Oak Brook Country Club.
The Huskies will compete in their new digs for the first time on Aug. 28 against Downers North, two days after returning from an overnight trip to Champaign for a tournament, which begins Friday.
Lyons Township, which finished third at the Elgin tourney with a score of 311, looks to be the leading contenders for the WSC title. With Hinsdale Central also a favorite, Gann said he’s hopeful his team can snag the third place spot.
“The short game and the mental side of things really need to come together,” he said. “If that happens, we should be right there.”