By Marty Farmer
The golf season is underway for boys and girls high school teams in Illinois. Here's a look at the Fenwick, OPRF and Trinity squads a few matches into the season.
The Friars roll into this season brimming with confidence. Led by Josh Kirkham (2018 Lawless Player of the Year in the Chicago Catholic League), the team finished tenth last year in the Class 3A state finals and second in the CCL.
Although Kirkham graduated and is now playing golf at Bradley University, plenty of talented players are back for Fenwick. Junior Jake Wiktor and senior Jackson Schaeffer are the top returnees this fall, with support from seniors Clark Davis, Brad Domke and juniors Jake Owens and David Hoban.
Reflective of the Friars' successful run, coach Jerry Kribs has enjoyed some notoriety himself recently as the Lawless Coach of the Year in 2013, 2016 and 2017.
Collectively, the players and Kribs have high expectations once again this fall.
"Our goals are always to win the Catholic League and qualify as a team for the state tournament," Kribs said. "In Class 2A, we should be very competitive in the state series. In order to win the Catholic League, we will have to defeat Loyola Academy."
As expected, Wiktor and Schaeffer are off to fast starts as the Friars' two leading scorers. Wiktor shot a 1-under (35) to power Fenwick past Providence in high winds at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville on Aug. 29, while Domke carded a 40 over nine holes. Schaeffer posted a score of 75 as Fenwick placed second at the 18-hole St. Ignatius Invite at the Ruth Lake Country Club in Hinsdale on Aug. 19.
Kribs knows the Friars need to play their best golf when it matters most.
"The key to a successful season will be peaking in the big events," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how we stack up against other 2A teams like Benet, St. Viator, Nazareth, Marmion, St. Francis and Providence."
The Huskies may not be quite as talented at the top of the lineup compared to last season; however, better depth should foster another solid season.
Gone are state tournament qualifiers Andrew Corsini and John Parker. Returning sectional qualifiers Nate Bibbey and Jack McIntosh, along with four-year varsity starters Jackson Derks and Aidan Wittenberg take over the mantle of leadership for OPRF.
Junior Josh Hedrich, who has shown dramatic improvement since his freshman year, plus promising sophomores Liam Spillane, Maddox Neumann and Nike Hass are other contributors.
"Although we lost a lot at the top [Corsini and Parker] last year, we are a lot deeper this year," coach Bill Young said. "Based on their accomplishments last season, Andrew and John showed our current team what it takes to be successful. We have a tight-knit group of guys who get along great with each other. They played a lot of golf together during the offseason."
The Huskies will be tested throughout the season, particularly in the rugged West Suburban Conference Silver Division. OPRF finished fifth in the league with a 2-4 record in the league last year. Young believes it might be the best conference in the state.
"Hinsdale Central has dominated for the last seven years and will be tough again this year," Young said. "Glenbard West, York and Lyons Township all have a lot of returning starters from great teams last year. Downers Grove North always has a strong team.
"Our conference schedule is really challenging, but that caliber of golf prepares our kids well for the postseason," he added. "Our boys get to compete against some of the best golfers in the state. They aspire to be that successful as well."
OPRF has posted some positive results this season. The Huskies defeated Jones/Payton 151-162 and Notre Dame 162-171 and placed third at the Mount Carmel Invite. Wittenberg carded a 73 to finish third, while Bibbey shot a 74 for eighth at Mount Carmel.
OPRF also shot 328 in a challenging quad against Loyola Academy, New Trier and Evanston.
In his second year as the Huskies' head coach, Young believes the Huskies' best is yet to come.
"We are a program that I feel is turning a corner," he said. "All of our golfers put in a lot of work in the offseason and we're seeing it pay off. We have four sophomores regularly playing on varsity that all show a lot of promise. We still have a ways to go to keep up with some of the other programs in our conference, but I think we're moving in a good direction."
Having the right mental approach is of paramount importance for the Huskies.
"We put a lot of emphasis on the mental aspect of the game," Young said. "Golf can beat you down mentally if you let it, so staying relaxed and confident is essential. The key will just be staying focused and overcoming the bad shots when they happen."
The Friars welcome back Taylor Hultquist, Lillian Bateman, Brigid O'Hara, Kate Reagan and Grace Bennett and second-year coach Michael Trankina this fall.
"Last year was a growing season for us," Trankina said. "We finished in the middle of the pack in our [GCAC] conference and came on strong placing third in regionals and qualifying for sectionals."
Hultquist is a senior team captain who consistently shoots in the low 90's and possibly high 80's over 18 holes. She started off the season with a personal-best 87 at the Homewood-Flossmoor Invite. Bateman, a promising sophomore, carded an 83 at the H-F Invite and has also posted nine-hole scores of 41 and 46 in other matches. O'Hara, Reagan and Bennett, who bolster the lineup with plenty of experience, also scored personal-bests at the H-F Invite.
Fenwick defeated Resurrection in its lone dual match so far this season.
"Our keys to a successful season will be our short game and putting," Trankina said. "Our ball striking is good so we need to take advantage of that by finishing the holes strong. We also need our younger players to step up. Charlotte Bateman is a freshman on our team and the younger sister of Lillian. If Charlotte develops like I think she can, that would really send us to another level."
The Friars are hoping for a top three finish in the GCAC Red and solid showing in the state series.
"Making state as a team or one of our top girls individually would be awesome," Trankina said. "I definitely want us to get through regionals and make a good showing in sectionals."
Sectional qualifiers Lauren Considine, Brianna Sullivan and Katarina Sheirok return this fall for Trinity, which placed third at its own Class A regional in 2018. Elizabeth Laffey, Bridget Sturbis and Faith Radford are gone due to graduation.
So far this year, the Blazers have split a pair of dual matches against Montini and Latin.
In the season opener, Trinity edged Montini 214-216 at the Willow Crest Golf Club in Oak Brook. Sheirok carded a 43 as the medalist, while Considine (54), Kylie Sullivan (58), Madeline Healy (59), Brianna Sullivan (60) and Kathleen O'Hara (62) also contributed for Trinity.
Latin defeated the Blazers 162-200 as Sheirok led Trinity in scoring again with a 39. Considine carded a 55 while Brianna Sullivan and Kylie Sullivan scored 48 and 58, respectively.
Other players on the roster include Callah Barnes, Claire Bushe, Rebecca Cormack, Fiona Lundt, Angelica Ochoa, Kathleen O'Hara, Ana Roach, Keylin Roach.
Trinity takes on Regina and Loyola Academy in a triangular match on Thursday, Sept. 5. The teams tee off at 4 p.m. at Indian Boundary Golf Course in Chicago.
The Blazers will face rival Fenwick on Wednesday, Sept. 11 (4:15 p.m. tee time) at Fresh Meadows Golf Course in Hillside.
Answer Book 2019
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