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Boys golf season preview: Glenbrook North seeks consistency after losing top talent

08/16/2014, 12:15pm CDT
By Matt Harness and Eric Van Dril | For Sun-Times Media | @harnesspreps and @VanDrilSports

Niles West's Skylar LeVine can attack the course more this year.

Glenbrook North's Luke Oberholtzer

Glenbrook North's Luke Oberholtzer tees off during the Class 3A state tournament at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington on Oct. 19, 2013. | File

The Glenbrook North boys golf team has lost a state champion from last year’s roster, as well as another player who has defeated some of the best players in the world this summer.

That’s why coach Justin Gerbich said “it’s going to be an interesting year.”

“The cupboard is [barer],” he said. 

Glenbrook North will be without four-year varsity players Brian Ohr, the Class 3A state champion, and sectional champion Nick Hardy, who was a semifinalist at the Western Amateur this summer. Ohr plans to play at Miami (Ohio), while Hardy plans to play at Illinois.

Despite the two big losses, the Spartans expect to welcome back four of their top six players from last year’s team that captured a sectional championship and finished fourth in the state at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington

Among those expected to return are senior Tyler Mulier, senior Luke Oberholtzer, senior Matt Kull and junior Daniel Cole. Mulier and Oberholtzer tied for 80th at the state tournament.

While the Spartans won’t have the likes of Ohr or Hardy to carry them, they might be better at the bottom of the lineup this season. 

‘We have the capability to play well, but it’s a matter of consistency,” Gerbich said. “This is more depth than we’ve had in a long time.”

Evanston

The Wildkits are coming off their best season in program history, but they graduated most of the team’s recognizable faces, such as Jake Casati, Henry Gruger, Jackson Mihevc and Evan Ter Molen. 

Those four helped Evanston win a regional title and reach a state tournament for the first time since the 1959-60 school year. 

“It’s wide open right now,” coach Jed Curtis said. “It’s probably been four or five years since we’ve had a situation like this. But I am excited for our team.”

Seniors Sam Knepper and Bill Nondorf are expected to step into leadership roles after earning experience in the state series last season. They were in the lineup at The Den at Fox Creek for Evanston’s seventh-place finish at the Class 3A state tournament. 

Others looking to increase their roles are senior Nick Maslauski, senior Adam Niebalski, junior Ethan Stein, junior Dylan Thompson and junior Robert James.

“We had some breakthrough success, and the challenge now is to keep it going,” Curtis said.

New Trier

Cracking the top six for the Trevians is an accomplishment in itself. 

Traditionally one of the deepest programs in the state, New Trier has the enviable problem of sometimes having to choose between good and great players. 

This year should be no different. 

Three starters from last year’s runner-up team at the Class 3A state tournament are expected back in senior Jack Junge, senior Will Connelly and junior Nick Iserloth. Junge was a co-state champion as a sophomore. 

Others in the mix for spots in the top six include senior Will Seaman, the CSL South champion as a sophomore, junior Andrew Huber and junior Matt Murlick. 

Even for those players who don’t get into the varsity rotation right away, coach Pete Drevline said he’s always scanning the program for those players shooting the lowest scores.

“We run it like a baseball team,” he said. “We have the big-league team, and then we have the minor leagues. And we aren’t afraid to call anybody up.”

Loyola

This could be considered a rebuilding year after losing the likes of Michael Abrahamson, a regional champion, and four other starters from last season’s sectional qualifier. Abrahamson plans to play college golf at Wisconsin this fall.

Although junior Michael Banas is the only player to return with from last year’s season-ending lineup, coach Tim Kane said he believes the Ramblers will field a competitive club.

“We have some players who are young, which obviously means they are inexperienced, but they are good,” he said. “On the flip side, we have returning players who have a ton of talent and can help lead this team.”

Glenbrook South

If anybody knows what the Titans have coming through the program’s pipeline, it’s Jeff Paek.

The first-year varsity coach was in charge of the under-level team a year ago. While he didn’t discount the importance of replacing six seniors, he said he believes he has the players to make a run at the state series.

“I know we will have a big number of incoming juniors,” Paek said. “I’ve seen the names and scores this summer. It still is a pretty big unknown.”

Easing the uncertainty is the expected return of senior Michael O’Connor, junior Grant Reese and sophomore Kevin Paek, who is Jeff Paek’s nephew. All three played on last year’s team that qualified for the Class 3A sectional tournament.

“It’s going to be a good mix,” Jeff Paek said.

North Shore Country Day

Not many teams can claim the same success as the Raiders over the last five years. 

They’ve been to the Class 1A state tournament four of those years, finishing first in 2011 and 2012 under coach Joe Bosco. The Raiders were the runners-up last season at Prairie Vista in Bloomington. 

The team’s top four from last year’s lineup all are expected back. Senior Andrew Blechman, senior Sam Reategui, senior Daniel Viellieu and junior Drew Miles all placed inside the top 58 at the 2013 state tournament.

Niles West

Skylar LeVine qualified for the Class 3A boys golf state tournament last year by playing steady, hitting fairways consistently and excelling on and around the greens.

Niles West coach Mitch Stern said the junior is bigger this year, which has made him even better. LeVine is hitting the ball farther, Stern said, which has allowed him to attack more than he did a year ago.

“You’d see him last year and he’d be hitting hybrids and five irons into greens, and now he’s using seven and eight irons to get into greens,” Stern said. “It’s just a much different game for him.”

LeVine finished tied for 74th at state a year ago.

LeVine figures to be supported in the lineup by seniors Tyler Stegich and Bennett Underwood and sophomore Jake Peiser, who is a candidate to emerge as one of the Wolves’ top golfers.

Notre Dame

A year ago, Notre Dame advanced to the sectional tournament as a team for the first time in program history. The Dons will look very similar at the top of their lineup this year, with David Steinle and Kyle Kolodziej both back.

The question entering the season is who will emerge by playing steady golf to pair with the senior duo.

“Really, I just need two players that can be consistent — solid players like David and Kyle are — and I think we’ll be OK,” Notre Dame coach Bob Beckman said. “Those kids that weren’t in the higher part of the lineup ... know that they need to bring their game up this year to have a chance of making it at least as far as we did last year.”

Seniors Brendan Golden and Nick Yzaguirre are two candidates to step up, Beckman added, but they’ll be among several golfers fighting for spots in the varsity lineup early in the season.

Niles North

Niles North has a great deal of uncertainty surrounding its lineup entering the season.

“We graduated kids that were our top golfers and also leaders, so we’re looking for a lot of practice in the offseason because the whole lineup is wide open,” Niles North coach Tom Zera said. “But even more than golf on the course, we’re looking for some senior leadership.”

Sophomore Kyle Mikota and senior Matt Ginsburg are likely to earn prominent places in the lineup, and several seniors are set to jockey for positions on the Vikings’ varsity squad.

Maine East

Tony Montesano has been Maine East’s coach for about 10 years and he said this year’s team is the best he’s ever had.

Maine East is led by Orion Yamat, who finished 31st at the Class 3A state tournament last year and figures to be one of the best golfers in the CSL as a senior. Aside from Yamat, seniors Anthony Calderone, Andrew Fox and Evan Beierwaltes provide the Blue Demons with lots of experience.

Montesano said he’d like to see Yamat get back to state, Calderone qualify for the sectional tournament and his team win matches, but there are also additional objectives.

“I definitely think we’ll rack up some victories this year,” Montesano said. “I’d love to see a couple more wins, but maybe I’m a different coach because those aren’t always my goals. My goals are to make sure the guys behave themselves, are stand-up guys and learn a lot about life doing this.”

Maine South

Anthony Celiano established himself as Maine South’s No. 1 golfer a year ago. The senior is aiming for his first state berth this season, Maine South coach Steve Scholl said, and he has the ability to shoot in the mid-70s on any given day.

The question for the Hawks entering the season is if anybody else can match Celiano.

Maine South enters the season with a deep roster — it figures to include seniors Tommy Deeter, Chris Brendza and Thomas Janowski, as well as juniors William Parilla and Austin Derrick — but it’ll likely need at least one person to break 80 with Celiano to compete in the CSL and the postseason.

“We have depth, but — aside from Anthony — I’m not sure if we’ve got anybody that can go pretty low,” Scholl said. “[Performing well] really depends on if some of the guys in the three, four, five and six spots, if they’re capable and pull off some low numbers at the right time.”

Northridge

North Shore Country Day has been the top program in Class 1A and the Independent School League over the last three years, finishing second in the state last year and winning state titles in 2011 and 2012.

Northridge, like so many Class 1A programs, wants to knock off the Raiders this year.

“We’ve been second to North Shore Country Day in conference for as long as I can remember, so our main goal this year is we want to win conference,” Northridge coach Alan Jankowski said. “North Shore is our target right now.”

The Knights appear to have enough talent on their roster to challenge North Shore. Senior Joe Egan returns as Northridge’s No. 1 golfer, while junior Paul DiFranco and senior Conor Cleveland both figure to serve as solid golfers in the lineup.

Ridgewood

Eric Lasky became Ridgewood’s coach in June. He takes over for Tom Parrillo, who stepped away from the program due to his business manager internship at Ridgewood.

Lasky provides the Rebels with a bunch of experience, having spent 13 years coaching West Chicago’s varsity team, yet he’s entering the season completely blind. He said he didn’t see any of Ridgewood’s varsity golfers play before the high school season started. 

Senior Frank Malicki is expected to lead the team.

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