The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys golf team already was going to have a different look for 2016 with new coach Jim Festle.
After meeting the team on the final day of school, Festle was greeted by another newcomer in the preseason.
Senior James Martin is a transfer from Wisconsin and has emerged as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 golfer.
“It was the most pleasant surprise,” Festle said. “He’s a very welcome move-in.”
The Bulldogs hope to pull off more surprises with three returnees from last year’s Class 3A sectional-qualifying lineup – seniors Chris Funaki and Derek Johnson and junior Joe Connelly.
Junior multi-sport athlete Max Alvarez and sophomore Chris Robertson also have contributed to a 2-3 dual start this fall.
Other top players and promising newcomers include senior Brendan Sedivy, juniors Billy Korslund, Joey Kinnan and Charlie Robling and freshmen Mike Mular, Kyle Platt and Cormac Coen.
This is Festle’s first season as a high-school golf coach but he has been a golf pro at Downers Grove Golf Club for 17 years and is athletic director at O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove.
With golf a no-cut sport, Festle wants to give the program’s 31 players a chance to compete heading into Metro Suburban Conference action.
“The kids are starting to buy into the new expectations, the work ethic that’s expected,” Festle said. “The hope is that the kids will play a little more year-round golf, enter (off-season) tournaments and take more lessons.”
The Bulldogs’ 183 swept Westmont (191) and Walther Christian (205) Aug. 26 at Carriage Greens while losing to MSC West Division rival Aurora Central Catholic 186-199 Wednesday, De La Salle 199-205 Aug. 24 and Timothy Christian 179-196 Aug. 22. They were 10th of 16 teams at the Lemont Invite Aug. 19 and eighth at the MSC/ISL Challenge Aug. 16.
Last season, RBHS was 12th at the Conant Sectional (375) after taking third at the St. Rita Regional (349), where Connelly (94) was the No. 4 scorer. The Bulldogs were sixth at the MSC West Meet (379).
“Our goal is to be much more competitive in conference play. Advancing to sectionals would be a great goal, and just to continue individual improvement of everyone top to bottom,” Festle said. “There is a lot of room for improvement for a lot of kids. We’re seeing a lot of lower-level kids buying in and talking about winter golf.”
Behind an experienced lineup, the RBHS girls golf team already has exceeded its 2015 dual victory total.
The Bulldogs are off to a 4-1 start and opened MSC action with a 208-238 victory over St. Edward at Meadowlark Golf Course.
Seniors Cameron Shaw (50) and Gigi Rumoro (51) had the top scores for the Bulldogs, who previously defeated Oak Forest 173-178 Aug. 29, Shepard Aug. 23 and Westmont 186-213 Aug. 18.
Senior Coco Murray (41), Rumoro (42) and senior Grace Pottle and sophomore Isabel Hughes (46s) led the rain-shortened victory over Oak Forest. Shaw led RBHS against Westmont (41) and in its only loss (50) – by one stroke to Nazareth 219-220 Aug. 19.
In 2015, the Bulldogs were seventh at the Class AA St. Ignatius Regional (453).