By Marty Farmer
The golf season is underway for boys and girls high school teams in Illinois. Here's a look at the Riverside-Brookfield, Lyons Township, Fenwick and Trinity squads a few matches into the season.
RBHS junior Kiki Keen has already shown her physical ability as a first-time state qualifier last season. However, it's Keen's mental strength that has solidified her standing as the Bulldogs' best golfer.
"I think golf is about 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical," Keen said. "The mental game is what can really destroy players. I try to go one shot at a time and not worry too much about the outcome."
Keen, an all-conference and all-tournament Metro Suburban Conference player in 2018, averaged a score of 42 per nine holes last season.
Along with Keen, returner Eva Funaki and transfer student Ava Vjestica are pegged as team leaders by first-year coach Doug Schultz. The Bulldogs finished 3-7 last season under coach Mark Gouwens, who has retired from teaching and coaching.
"Our strengths are focused on our top returning golfers Kiki and Eva," Schultz said. "The addition of Ava gives the team a third golfer who can score in the 40's or below. The key to the team's success is finding a fourth golfer who can consistently score in the 40's."
Junior Tess Bruno, sophomore Elizabeth Centorcelli and eight freshmen fill out the lineup for RBHS (1-2 record) this season.
"Our goal for the season is to find one aspect of golf to improve on each day," Schultz said. "Most of the girls are focused on improving their putting and then progressing to the tee."
Coach Jim Festle is excited about the Bulldogs' potential this season. The team has already validated Festle's optimism by placing third out of nine teams at the Payton-Jones Invite and winning dual matches against Morton (189-205) and De La Salle (177-213).
"RB boys golf continues to improve every year," Festle said. "Two lofty goals for us this season are to have a winning record in conference and advancing as a team to sectionals. If the team doesn't advance [to sectionals], I believe that we have three or four individuals that will."
Although the Bulldogs will miss three-time sectional qualifier Chris Robertson (graduated last year), plenty of talented golfers are back this fall. The list includes seniors Kyle Platt, Con Stanovich, Ben Udelson and Michael Mular, plus juniors Jackson Fields (sectional qualifier in 2018) and James Berger. Sophomores Jack Jones, Dan Schwanderlik and Stephen Berger, along with Mason Vazzana (transfer from Payton), will contribute as well.
Returning sectional qualifiers Nora Kirby and Katlyn Lambright lead the Lions this fall. After those two golfers, coach Jeff Johnson anticipates a fluid lineup.
"We will have a lot of fluctuation in our lineup," he said. "Players will be changing with new players contributing."
With Hinsdale Central as the prohibitive favorite to win conference, LTHS hopes to contend in the perennially solid West Suburban Conference Silver Division. The Lions placed fifth in the league last season.
"The whole WSC is competitive in golf," Johnson said. "Each conference team is tough and a notable matchup. Hopefully one of us can put some pressure on Hinsdale Central.
"We need to practice and make putts," Johnson added. "If we all focus, work during practice and play with confidence, we can be competitive in the WSC."
LTHS is off a promising start with wins over York and Downers Grove South.
Entering his 10th season as the Lions' coach, Brian Kopecky has guided LTHS to second- and third-place finishes at the state finals, plus a pair of conference titles.
In short, the Lions know how to win.
LTHS finished fifth in the West Suburban Conference, second in regional play and fifth at the sectional last season.
"The team's strength this year should be our depth," Kopecky said. "The team played in a lot of summer tourneys to get ready. We need to improve on course management if we are going to become a really good team."
Senior Max Rockrohr, the team's lone returning state qualifier, headlines the roster. He shot 73 in sectional action and 74 at the state tourney in 2018.
Andrew Schodrof, Grif Pohl, Callum Mitchell, Trent Garrett, Will Caronchi, Leo Denning, Gabe Newman and Mike Springer should contribute as well.
At the Glenbard West quad and St. Viator Invite, LTHS scored 307 at both events, with Rockrohr, Mitchell, Springer and Caronchi all carding scores in the 70's.
"The team is off to a good start," Kopecky said. "The conference race should be close. We will have to play well if we want to be in the hunt."
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.