By Marty Farmer
With the state finals this weekend, the summary for the OPRF and Fenwick boys and girls golf teams is essentially complete. After several strong performances by local teams and players alike during regional competition, difficult sectional draws severely limited the amount state qualifiers.
In fact, the Fenwick boys team, which had high hopes for the state tourney, advanced no one to the state finals at the brutal New Trier Sectional. Fenwick finished sixth in team scoring with 317. Sectional champ Loyola Academy (291), New Trier (294), Lake Park (308), York (309) and Glenbrook North (315) were the Top 5 scoring teams.
Junior Josh Kirkham and Jackson Schaeffer both shot 78 to share the Friars' best sectional score.
The Friars, who finished fifth in the Class 2A state tournament last year, flourished during the regular season at the 3A level this fall.
The Friars' impressive resume includes an Elk Grove Regional championship, a Chicago Catholic League title, four 1st place invite finishes, and a 12-1 overall record, with an 8-1 mark in the CCL.
The team not only has talent but an effective mix of veterans and younger players. Kirkham was the medalist at the Elk Grove Regional with a 69 as the Friars posted a score of 302 to edge York (306) for the title. He's an all-conference player who was also the medalist at the St. Laurence and St. Ignatius invites.
"Josh has an all-around strong game," Fenwick coach Jerry Kribs said. "His short game is impeccable."
Seniors Reese Wildermuth and Michael Scudder bolster the front end of a terrific lineup. Wildermuth, another all-conference performer, carded a 69 to finish first at the CCL Tournament. Scudder tied for first at the Mount Carmel Invitational with a 69.
"Reese is a leader on the team who can always be relied upon for a good score," Kribs said. "He does all the right things on and off the course. Michael is another leader whose steady play and even keel are assets to the team."
Senior Billy Bruce is the best athlete on the team. Previously, he played tennis at Fenwick. He's also a key member of the Friars' basketball team, which finished second in the state last year.
"Billy is a Chicago Catholic League All-Conference golfer," Kribs said. "His competitive drive really helps him grind out every shot."
Promising underclassmen Jake Wiktor and Schaeffer have delivered already for the talented Friars. Wiktor is a freshman who shot a 75 to place fifth in regional play. He's regarded as a tremendous chipper and putter. Schaeffer, a sophomore, has driving accuracy and grinds out every shot which enables him to score in the mid-70s.
"Our greatest strength is our depth," Kribs said. "Any of our six players have been and could be the low scorer of the day. This has been one of Fenwick's best seasons to date."
With talented players like juniors John Parker and Andrew Corsini and sophomore Aiden Wittenberg, the future looks bright for the Huskies. All three golfers, along with senior Mike Milad, advanced to sectionals with good rounds at the Elk Grove Regional.
Parker and Corsini each shot an 81, while Milad carded an 83. Wittenberg scored an 86 for the Huskies, who finished fourth in the team standings with a score of 331. The Huskies fell just short of qualifying for sectionals as only the top three teams move on. Fenwick (302), York (306) and Lake Park (310) finished ahead of OPRF.
At the New Trier Sectional, Corsini carded an 85 and Mike Milad 86 as top scorers for the Huskies.
The Friars' score of 358 topped runner-up Payton by six strokes to win the Class 2A St. Ignatius Regional last week. Senior Stephanie Mroz led Fenwick with a score of 73 to earn medalist honors. Alexis Attard (92), Natalie Mortell (95), Taylor Holquist (98), Olivia Morrissey (101) and Brigid O'Hara (121) also contributed for the regional champs.
Marie Miller, Samantha Shalgos, Grace Bennett and Gabriella Kiel have provided depth this season.
Fenwick tuned up for the postseason with a second-place showing in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference tourney at the Green Garden Golf Club in Frankfort. With a score of 342, the Friars trailed only Loyola in a 12-team field. GCAC All-Conference picks Mroz (third place, 2-over 73), Mortell (9th place, 84) and Attard (12th place) powered Fenwick to its runner-up finish.
Fenwick has benefited from excellent play at the top of lineup.
"Stephanie Mroz is a senior who is playing some of her best golf," Fenwick coach Kitty Delany said. "She has an average 18-hole score of 75 and an average 38 score over 9-holes. She is very talented and capable of placing very high, if not winning, the state finals.
"Fellow senior Natalie Mortell has steadily improved her scoring. Alexis Attard is a big hitter. She's also improved her short game this season, which has improved her scoring as well."
At the Wheaton Academy Sectional, the Friars failed to advance to state with a ninth-place finish. Mroz, however, will attend state as the team's lone qualifier. She shot a 70, just five strokes behind sectional champ Nicole Hansen (70) from Lake Park.
Although the Huskies fell short of advancing to sectionals as a team, two golfers earned their way to that round of postseason play.
Junior Haley Gladden recorded the best score for OPRF with an 89 and fellow sectional qualifier Anika Carlson carded a 102.
"I think Haley can get downstate and I want to see Anika right on her heels," OPRF coach Matt McMurray said. "Haley's strengths are accuracy and her long game. She has a really strong all-around game. Anika's strengths are driving and short game.
"The players have a great attitude and there is camaraderie on this team. They all like one another and have fun while focusing on getter better."
Ella Haas missed qualifying for sectionals by one shot (107).
"Ella shot a 35 against Willowbrook this year and has a handful of rounds in the 40s," McMurray said. "She's good at her drives and approaches."
Like Haas, Liv Conmy has been a welcome addition to the varsity. She drives the ball well and is a skilled player with irons.
"Our strengths are driving the ball and playing well at home," McMurray said. "We need to improve our stamina and consistency over 18 holes. Additionally, we need to break 50/100 more often on the back end of our lineup. We need more depth.
This is McMurray's first year at the varsity level. "I coached JV last year so not much of a track record thus far."
McMurray said Tom Kennedy has been a good addition as assistant coach.
"Tom has really built a great relationship with his players," McMurray said. "He makes the game fun for a team of mostly new and inexperienced golfers."
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