Nate Lee has yet to play a round this season, but Niles West coach Mitch Stern said the senior has already staked his claim as the best player in school history.
“He’s a fantastic player,” said Stern, who’s entering his 13th season. “He’ll go down — he probably has already gone down — as Niles West’s best golfer ever as a three-time state qualifier. In fact, I don’t think many kids from any high school can say they’ve qualified individually their first three years of high school. It’s pretty rare. He’s a special player and I’d love to see him in the top-10 (at state this year), but I think he has his sights set on winning the whole thing.”
Lee tied for 25th at the Class 3A state meet a year ago.
Tom Zera spent the last 12 years as Stern’s assistant coach at Niles West, but he will be Niles North’s coach this season. The move was a natural one, Zera said, since he transferred from Niles West to Niles North before the 2012-13 academic year.
Zera teaches special education at Niles North.
Dons coach Bob Beckman calls the school’s Beckman/Weldon Instructional Center “probably the best thing we’ve been able to do in our program,” and he said he thinks it’s likely Notre Dame will have more competitive tryouts and lower scores this fall because of the center’s new technology.
David Steinle is one of the players who figures to shoot lower scores thanks to the on-campus, indoor golf facility, which is equipped with a simulator, two open bays with a video camera in each and a software program that allows players and coaches to analyze their swings.
Beckman said Steinle was almost cut from Notre Dame’s team as a freshman. He’s now in position to become one of the Dons’ top-three players because the junior took advantage of the facility. Steinle’s swing is noticeably straighter, Beckman said
“In the winter, we were able to … put the swing in the position where it needed to be, so he could see exactly where his hands are, where his arms are and how he’s bringing the club in,” Beckman said. “Then, on the simulator, it’s going to tell him what his club speed is, what his club angle is. Our goal was to get the club angle down to the small digits — not 5.9 (degrees) open, but get it down to 1.8 (degrees) open.”
Seniors Joey Mirabelli and Joey DeFrenza figure to be at the top of the Hawks’ lineup. They will try to help offset the departure of the six seniors on last year’s team.
Maine South coach Steve Scholl is confident the program’s younger players will help with the transition as well.
“My team, even though we’re younger, (is) going to be equally competitive as we were last year,” Scholl said.
“This team, in terms of golf maturation, they’re ahead of last year’s team. I think the two Joeys at the top, if they play poorly, they’re shooting 82. If they play well, they’re shooting 77. The (young) guys, they’re the same thing. They can shoot from upper 70s to low 80s, and that makes us competitive.”
The Rebels’ boys squad is led by senior Sabrina Bonanno, the defending Class A girls state champion who’s the favorite to repeat at state this year. Bonanno is supported in the lineup by junior Frank Malicki, who’s entering his third season on varsity, and senior Alec Budnik.
First-year coach Alan Jankowski inherits a team that took ninth at the Class 1A Westminster Christian Sectional a year ago, missing out on state by 24 strokes.