Changes, challenges abound for Ranger girls

Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Sophomore Kaitlyn Seffernick is one of the returning golfers for Forest Park this year under new coach Nick Grothouse.


FERDINAND —  Almost every high school sports team deals with changes on an annual basis, but some teams see more voluminous change than others do. This year is certainly going to be different for Forest Park’s girls golfers for multiple reasons.

The Rangers are dealing with a coaching change, for one. Nick Grothouse is replacing Pat Schuler as the coach of the team. The 2006 Jasper graduate didn’t golf in high school, but he has, nevertheless, exuded a lifelong passion for the game that was passed down to him from previous generations. Grothouse has coached sports before, but never at the high school level.

“I’ve been playing since I was a little kid — hitting balls out of my sandbox and trying to make them into my satellite dish,” Grothouse said. “Then I grew up in the game. My dad (Kurt) was a big player. His dad (Carl) was a big player. So, naturally, I was taught all the rules and etiquette at an early age and just kind of played as much as I could when I was young.”

Nick’s experience coaching golf has been limited to friends and family. Wife Amanda had never swung a golf club before 2020, so he’s had to start from the get-go, and has tried to teach the basics of a golf swing to his young daughters, Amelia and Emmalynn.

He has a relaxed approach coaching the game of golf, wanting to make it as fun as possible. Nick doesn’t want to make any rookie mistakes as Forest Park’s coach. He is very excited about the position, and isn’t nervous at all, but he’ll have a small group to work with at this point.

The Rangers currently only have four golfers out for this year: Grace Wendholt, a junior; Grace Haas and Kaitlyn Seffernick, both sophomores; and Brooke Rasche, a freshman. They graduated Makayla McKim, and other notable golfers in juniors Ella Borden and Maya Jones have not come out for the 2020 season.

Nick told The Herald that Forest Park is trying to get a fifth player, but it’s hard to get new players because they don’t know enough about the sport, nor do they know about the limitations COVID-19 has placed on things.

There’s stuff that he likes about the four golfers he does have, both how well they get along and advise one another as a team, and the things they bring to the table as individuals.

On Rasche: “I knew she was a very good softball player, and that power from softball is definitely transitioning to golf. When she gets ahold of a ball and she makes solid contact, she’s got a very long drive and very solid iron game.”

On Wendholt: “When I watched Grace Wendholt for the first time, she’s very fluid, her skills are there. I think now that we’ve had some more practice time, and she’s been doing a lot of stuff this summer, her game’s really coming on. I have a really good feeling on how her season’s going to go.”

On Haas: “She has a swing that makes me jealous. Her swing is beautiful. We’ve just got to get the consistency to a point where she would want it to be.”

On Seffernick: “I didn’t know Kaitlyn before the season. So, meeting her, she’s such a fun kid. She brings a smile every day to practice. The skills are there, but it’s not always consistent. So, we’re trying to really focus on her grip and her wrists and her swing pattern to try and get it to be a little more straight and a little more consistent.”

He’s noticed improvement in his golfers’ consistency, but he told The Herald on July 20 that his players are also quick to putt, and that slowing down and lining up was going to be their main focus for the week.

Wendholt is entering her third year as a Forest Park golfer. One might think there’s an expectation for her to be a leader to the other three — given her class and experience compared to the three underclassmen — and Nick hasn’t even had to lean on Wendholt to lead the way for the team.

“She just kind of took the role on,” Nick said. “She drives them to practice, she organized the uniforms, she helps us with tee times. She helps the other golfers as they go. She’s  been working with our freshman, Brooke Rasche, quite a bit, and they’ve been paired together and playing a little bit. She’s a natural leader.”

Forest Park shot 464 as a team during the 2019 Jasper sectional. The Rangers did not qualify for regionals as a team, nor did they send any individuals. How well the golfers do when it comes to postseason play will also depend on their opponents, and Nick can only compare his golfers against one another since he doesn’t know about the other teams.

Nick is looking to see the game of each of his golfers through the course of nine or 18 holes as opposed to just a glimpse he’s getting with the restricted meets. He currently wants his golfers to focus on improving a part of their game when they’re meeting, and not their whole golf game. Nick can’t ask a lot of them at the moment, but he wants them to stay healthy, and he knows they’re a great group that is doing the best they can.

The Rangers are set to open their season at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Christmas Lake against Springs Valley. 

“A win would be great, but development is the key here,” Nick said. “So, as long as they put in a good effort — that they did their best — I’ll be happy.”

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