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Football to golf: Mount Carmel’s football coach and some players make the fall switch

Mount Carmel senior Michael Dobrich originally expected to begin football practice on Monday.

Mount Carmel’s Michael Dobrich lines up a putt during practice at Jackson Park Golf Course.
Mount Carmel’s Michael Dobrich lines up a putt during practice at Jackson Park Golf Course.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Mount Carmel senior Michael Dobrich originally expected to begin football practice Monday. It would’ve been the first step toward defending the Caravan’s Class 7A state title.

Instead, the starting center was one of the new guys trying out for the golf team.

“[COVID-19] is not a good thing, but it has opened up a new experience for me,” Dobrich said. “I thought I’d give it a try. I just want to stay active. Hopefully I make the team.”

Dobrich ran into a familiar face at the Jackson Park golf course on Monday morning: Jordan Lynch, Mount Carmel’s football coach.

“I had no idea he was going to be an assistant coach,” Dobrich said. “It was a pretty funny surprise when I got here.”

The Illinois High School Association has moved football, along with girls volleyball and boys soccer, to the spring season because of COVID-19. That left golf, cross-country, girls tennis and girls swimming as the only sports to begin practice Monday. Chicago Public Schools has delayed the start of fall sports practices until next week.

Lynch says he jumped at the opportunity to become an assistant golf coach.

“With the season being canceled, it’s a great way for me to get in front of the kids and try to make an impact on them,” Lynch said. “I also love golf. I’m not very good, but I like getting out. I might not be able to teach them much about golf, but I can help them out with mental toughness and stuff that can benefit them with anything.”

Dobrich was one of five football players trying out for the golf team, according to coach Anthony Massino.

“Even when football is going on, I always tell the kids that the more they can do, the better,” Lynch said. “A lot of them don’t have much going on now, and they are good athletes. It was great to see [Dobrich] out here. It’s so much better than sitting in the house and playing video games.”

Lynch and Dobrich have won a football state title. The Caravan have two golfers who could earn state hardware, if there is a golf state tournament.

Massino has high expectations for senior Christopher Whelton and junior Ahmad Raoul.

“Last year, Chris missed state by two strokes and Ahmad missed by three,” Massino said. “Hopefully the state series can happen because those two can get to state and possibly even win the sectional.”

Whelton lives in Glen Ellyn. He woke up Monday ready to head to golf practice, then learned of the looting downtown.

“It was going to be the first normal day coming down to school, then that turned it really crazy,” Whelton said. “There is no traffic with [COVID-19], which is kind of nice but also weird. There was a lot of destruction downtown and stuff like that.”

Golf was one of the first activities allowed after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted, so Massino and his team aren’t too worried, but they are taking extra precautions. The IHSA and state guidelines don’t require masks during golf practice or meets.

“We are going to require masks,” Massino said, “especially when they are on the putting green and anything that requires close quarters. But once they are out on the course, they don’t have to have it on until they get close.”