Bit by bit, green golfers gaining momentum

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Forest Park’s Rachel Metz comes from a team in which the majority of the golfers didn’t pick up the sport until their freshman year. Another team that’s learning is Heritage Hills, which is fielding a squad for the first time this year but will be represented by just one golfer, Eryn Jochim, in Saturday’s sectional at Jasper. The rest of the Patriots are waiting to gather more experience before testing postseason play.


By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

For the first time, Heritage Hills fielded a girls golf team this season. Girls were interested. Enthusiasm was high.

Jochim

There was only one problem.

“The first night we met we had people there, we had six kids and only two had clubs,” Patriot coach Dave Jochim said incredulously.

“That was the week before practice started.”

The girls got right to work.

Ashleigh Gideon’s mother bought a set of clubs at a yard sale — coincidentally, Forest Park junior Rachel Metz’s mom did the same thing last year when Metz played competitively for the first time. Other Patriots borrowed clubs from friends. Or in Dallas Buse’s case, from the owner of Christmas Lake Golf Course, a friend of the family.

Then there was covering the rules. In golf, that’s like trying to read the Bible in a weekend.

The Patriots are still learning what they can and can’t do. And if they’re unsure, they can be plenty resourceful, evidenced by what happened when Jochim asked the girls what they should do if the ball gets lodged between the flag and the rim of the hole.

“Sarah Ayer, one of the girls, said that she’d blow on it to get it to go in the hole,” freshman Eryn Jochim said of her teammate.

Hey, whatever works.

In a season full of surprises and learning experiences, the Patriots decided to end theirs short of sectional, which is scheduled for Saturday at Jasper Municipal Golf Course. Eryn Jochim will compete as an individual, and her teammates will be present to cheer her on, but the rest of the Patriots decided on their own to go only as spectators. That’s fine with their coach, who said asking girls who picked up a club for the first time six weeks ago to compete at rugged course is a little unfair. If sectional were elsewhere, Heritage Hills may have competed, though both Jochim and his players have already made up their mind concerning next season.

“They’re going to go play in sectional and I think they’re looking forward to it,” the Patriot coach said. “They just want to go see what it’s all about this year.”

With postseason play still a year away, this weekend can be a time for reflection instead of possible frustration. And the way the Patriots figure it, they’ve already made the record books.

“It was a new team and it was making history, so I just kind of wanted to be a part of that,” Buse said.

Eryn Jochim, the coach’s daughter, is the only Patriot to have played at all before this season — but the Patriots graduate just one golfer so there’s the hope next season will produce lower scores.

“It’s been a lot of fun because when I play it’s always with my parents and I don’t usually play with people my age,” Eryn said. “It’s fun to play with girls your age and not by yourself.”

As she indicates, there’s strength in numbers.

Bryce Morrison knows the feeling.

The first-year Forest Park coach previously coached a Ranger boys squad two years ago that boasted just one player out of six who had competed prior to varsity. This year’s girls team features seven golfers, four of whom played for the first time as freshmen. Forest Park doesn’t boast a junior high or feeder program, though Morrison pointed to Fairweather Indoor Golf, a golf simulator owned by current Forest Park boys coach Chris Tretter, as one way kids can catch up on years of inexperience.

Morrison rattled other Ranger sports programs that are competitive in postseason. But imagine, he says, heading into basketball season with five guys who had never attempted a shot in their lives.

“You’d never think about that. Ever,” Morrison said. “But that’s kind of what’s happening a lot in golf if you don’t have those feeder programs.”

Elsewhere in the area, seventh-ranked Jasper doesn’t have any such problems. Coach Steve Milligan said most of the Wildcats on this year’s team have been playing regularly since as early as fifth grade. Many of them have competed, like Eryn Jochim, in Dad’s Root Beer Tour events. Having four golf courses in Jasper sure doesn’t hurt either, representing another obstacle for the Rangers, whose home turf is Christmas Lake Golf Course in Santa Claus.

“The challenge — especially at Forest Park — is you have a community that has no golf course as our home,” Morrison said. “Golf, it’s almost like maybe horse racing: Unless you grow up in it, you don’t necessarily get involved in the sport.”

That’s a big reason why Eryn isn’t green to the greens. Her dad is a self-described “fanatic.” He’d strap Eryn’s car seat onto the golf cart and take her around the course as she grew up. When she got big enough, Eryn started playing with her own set of little golf clubs.

Dave Jochim asked aloud how good his daughter will eventually be. He isn’t sure of that. But in a sport in which Morrison said the ceiling is higher than perhaps other endeavors where sheer athleticism plays more of a role, nothing is out of reach.

Morrison, a 1995 Southridge graduate, remembers shooting in the 60s as a high school sophomore. The next year, he advanced to regional as an individual. Similarly, he’s seen girls go from posting scores in the 70s to the 40s “within a year, no problem.” Dedicating an entire offseason to improving is important, Morrison emphasized, but the possibility is there.

That’s one reason why Dave Jochim said without hesitation the Patriots will compete at sectional next season. They’ll be in the in the postseason, and they know that. For now, there’s other ways of measuring success.

“Without having clubs or ever playing, these girls have come a long way,” he said.

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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