OH, what a year! Late September back in ’07, OK, you get the picture. But what fun it was, our Bishop Luers Lady Knight Golfers won the SAC Conference Title for the first time since 1993…14 years! Kristi O’Brien and her four fellow seniors reached the top of the Summit in the City (excuse the pun). In essence, we nipped preseason favorite Northrop by two measly strokes in a pivotal golf match on the back nine at Donald Ross. Ironically it was not a senior, but Junior Chelsea Pritchard, playing the #5 position, that tipped the ever-teetering scale finally to Luer’s side with her solid play over the final four holes. Chelsea would return for 2008, but everyone knew the Lady Knights would struggle this year. Many felt Luers would finish last or second to last in the SAC in 2008. I can’t even tell you how many people were surprised, if not shocked, that I was coming back for my second year as Head Coach. After all, my daughter, Kristi graduated. I explained to everyone that I didn’t take the job just to coach Kristi. If watching Kristi were my only concern, I wouldn’t have coached at all! Because, as Luers’ coach, I had five, sometimes even nine girls to help on the course. So I actually missed many of the holes that she played in her Senior 2007 Season, instead of following her all 18 holes as in previous years. But it was well worth the sacrifice! I absolutely love coaching these kids. And this year was so different than having five veteran Varsity Seniors returning like in ’07. Besides Chelsea and Junior Kyren O’Shaughnessey, nobody had any Varsity experience. The rest of the team consisted of five returning sophomores who for all intents and purposes, just took up the game as freshman last year (Alex Eagleson, Amanda Vankoski, Alexis Baker, Olympia Olson and Lauren Holman). We also had a sophomore newcomer (Lexie Hamel) who is a very athletic girl with some golf in her family background, but this was really still Lexie’s, as well as freshman Georgia Gladding’s first year at playing golf.
I had lots of great help coaching the girls from two very knowledgeable assistants, Steve Gillie and John Matera. Plus I had super daily help from Team Mom, Barb Eagleson who kept the girls refreshed with water/Gatorade and their tummies full with healthy snacks all year long.
I told the girls early on, “Forget last year, those girls have graduated. Don’t compare yourselves to them, and don’t be concerned with how well your opponent is playing. Stick to your own game and play the golf course! Your only goal should be to try to beat your own personal best score. Our [coaches] two main objectives for you are 1) To have fun in this Golf Team endeavor and 2) continue to improve.” But having said that, it was imperative that the girls still set both personal and team goals for themselves.
Our first match we shot 247 and lost to Fremont by 50 strokes. Then we played our first 18 Hole Tournament, the Huntington North Invitational at Lafontaine. We shot a 467 to place 9th out of 11 teams. We also played in four more 18 Hole Tournaments in our early season, again usually placing in the last two or three teams. But we were indeed improving! In the 9 Hole Matches, we won only one (vs. South Adams) of our first five. But we shot a strong season low 209 in our loss to a powerhouse Leo Team at tough and hilly Cedar Creek. Kyren O’Shaughnessey fired an awesome 45 that day. All season long I was watching the other SAC Conference Teams’ scores in the paper. So after Northrop, with their top four talented seniors beat us by 47 at Colonial Oaks to open our SAC season, I gave the girls a high reaching goal. But first I was blatantly honest with them. “Ladies, the only way that Northrop can lose the SAC Championship this year is if they all show up at the wrong course on SAC Tournament Saturday! But, if we can beat Dwenger tomorrow and we keep improving, we could actually finish Second place in the SAC season!” I figured that it would be a wide open battle between Luers, Concordia, Snider and North Side. But I found out the next day that Bishop Dwenger had improved so much under an excellent Coach Kurt Leffers that they too, could be in that mix. They shot 224 against us at our home course, Brookwood. Luckily, we also played very well, shooting 218 to edge them out. Kyren was the entire Match Medalist, firing 49. But after beating South Side rather handily, we hit a bump in the road. Snider derailed us by 7 strokes on Lakeside’s back nine. But I still figured that IF we win our last two matches over Concordia and North Side, we’d be in the driver’s seat for second place in the SAC Season. But we flat out would have to win those two and finish Runner-up in the mid-September SAC 18 Hole Tournament, of which scores also figure into the regular season SAC Title. Our Ladies knew that the three-way match (Concordia, North Side and Luers) was their most important 9 Hole Match of the season. They responded by firing a new season best 202 on Brookwood’s front nine, beating Concordia’s 213 and North’s 230. Kyren was the Match Medalist again with 45. Chelsea nailed a 46 and Amanda Vankoski fired a 53. All three girls shot or matched their own PR (personal record)! But if I was amazed at that, I shouldn’t have been.
Two days later at Donald Ross, on our young team’s biggest stage yet, we shot 399! We followed our strong 203 on the front nine with an astonishing 196 on the back nine! Alex Eagleson, our sweet swinging girl with loads of potential had a breakout round with a 94! She never had a 3 putt and won a 6th place ribbon. Kyren shot 97 (9th place), and Chelsea and Amanda each fired 104 (tied for 12th place). We had four girls win a top 15 place ribbon in the 7 team/35 player field. Plus, Alex, Kyren, Amanda and Alexis Baker all fired their 18 Hole career best! Chelsea missed her own PR by just one. Both Alex and Alexis bagged an exciting birdie too. Overall here’s the real shocker to me; Our BLHS team not only shot our season’s low 18 hole score, but we beat our previous best by a whopping 42 shots! Amazing! That’s over ten shots per girl. And not 10 shots better than each girls average score, its 10 better than their previous best ever! Needless to say, we accomplished our team goal, too. Runner-up in both the regular season and the SAC Tournament as well! Wow. I’d say that’s a big improvement! The girls were really excited…as they should be. Northrop’s Kylee Wierks, who gave my Kristi a good battle last year, won her first SAC Title. She’s probably the third best High School Golfer in the entire area behind Kaylee Imel and Ashley Kees. Northrop’s top four seniors finished 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the tournament. As a team, remember our 1-4 win-loss record that we started the season with? Well, we ended up 6-6 overall and 4-2 in the SAC. In the confusing overall SAC Season Record (which includes each teams’ SAC tournament finishes), we were 9-3. Northrop was 12-0.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what gracious hosts Mike Harris, Bob Kruse and the fine staff at Brookwood were. We are very fortunate to play and practice at one of the finest Public Golf Courses in Northern Indiana. Our girls had so much fun. Chelsea and Kyren were fabulous Captains! Kyren also was named to the All-SAC Conference Team, well deserved. And Chelsea, Alex and Amanda received Honorable Mention All-SAC Team. Our team recently celebrated our successful season with a scrumptious Banquet at Brookwood on Sunday, October 5th. Cindy and her team are great cooks!
As for next year, we will sorely miss Chelsea Pritchard, both as a golfer and a leader. But we return with next year’s Senior, Kyren and our 6 strong and talented Juniors, as well as a fast improving Sophomore, Georgia Gladding. By the way, Lexie Hamel had a super first season shooting a new PR four times! And I can’t tell you what strides that Olympia Olson and Lauren Holman made this fall. Most all of these girls will be playing in Summer Tournaments next June and July. We coaches absolutely can’t wait for our 2009 High School Season!
Banquet Award winners:
Golfer of the Year – Kyren O’Shaughnessey
Mental Attitude Award – Chelsea Pritchard
Most Improved Golfer – Amanda Vankoski
Most Improved Putter – Alexis Baker
Best Score of the Year – Alex Eagleson
Best Putter – Kyren O’Shaughnessey
Rookie of the Year – Lexie Hamel