Evanston has been inching closer and closer to advancing downstate as a team — which the program hasn’t done in more than 50 years — and this year’s outstanding senior class has a chance to end the drought.
“Last year was kind of disappointing because we really felt like we had an opportunity and we kind of let it slip away a little bit,” said Evanston coach Jed Curtis, whose team was 24 shots away from qualifying for state a year ago. “But for a few of the kids, that was their first time in that environment. I think the hope is we’re going to build on that.”
Curtis listed depth, specifically the ability to post four quality scores on a difficult golf course, as the key to advancing to the state tournament.
Local powerhouses Glenbrook North, Loyola and New Trier typically possess the quality and depth Evanston hopes to have this season. All three also are likely to be in Evanston’s sectional, and just three teams advance to state.
Second-year Evanston varsity players Tom Langkamp and Jake Casati will try to help support varsity veterans Jackson Mihevc, Evan TerMolen and Henry Gruger this season. All five players are seniors.
Pete Drevline grew accustomed to the majority of the varsity spots in his postseason lineup being filled by seniors during his first three seasons at the helm of New Trier’s boys golf team.
That trend changed last year, however, when Jack Junge, Will Seaman and Nick Iserloth all represented the Trevians in the state tournament. Junge went on to tie for the Class 3A state title as a sophomore. Seaman was also a sophomore and Iserloth was a freshman.
Drevline said he was prepared for a ferocious three-day tryout process given the program’s vast numbers and the likely improvements made by the senior class.
“We went very young last year, so I expect us to be very, very deep this year,” Drevline said. “We usually just graduate the seniors and the guys who were juniors last year just kind of wait their turn, and this would be their turn. But we were so young last year that it’s going to be super competitive. It’s probably going to be the most competitive team, in terms of making it, that I’ve ever encountered since I’ve been there.”
Tryouts were scheduled to begin Wednesday.
North Shore Country Day won two consecutive Class 1A state titles with Nick McCall as its No. 1 player. McCall has since graduated, yet North Shore coach Joe Bosco said this year’s squad is keen on trying to keep the Raiders atop Class 1A.
“I do think we’ve got a legacy,” Bosco said. “These guys, they take it serious. This particular group, it feels like they have something to prove now that the big three are gone (McCall, Andrew Bedford and David Blechman). Now that they’re gone, these guys want to prove that there’s some really good golf here to stay at North Shore. We’re not just two-and-done.”
The Raiders return seniors Andrew Blechman and Will Skinner from last year’s state championship squad, as well as junior Sam Reategui.
One of the primary reasons Loyola senior Peter Leinenweber has become one of area’s top players is his willingness to work on his weaknesses, Loyola coach Tim Kane said. Leinenweber, an Evanston resident, finished 14th in Class 3A a year ago.
“He quietly focuses on making his game better,” Kane said. “So many high school players, they just go and work on what they’re already good at. They’re not willing to really work on the things they need to work on to make them better players. He is more than willing to say, ‘OK, you know what? My mid-irons right now are not as strong as they can be. I really need to work on those.’ And he’d focus on that. He’d focus on his putting. He’d focus on his short game. And those are things that kids, at practice, often find boring. But he blocked that out of his mind and said, ‘This is what I’m going to focus on,’ and it really paid off for him.”
Steve Gale retired from teaching in 2010, yet his coaching career figures to be busier than ever this year. Gale is the new Glenbrook South boys golf coach, and he’s also the Titans’ girls gymnastics coach as well as an assistant coach on the boys gymnastics team.