Golf: Hubs push through unprecedented season

Sophomore Damen Harrington is one of multiple underclassmen who could step up and become leaders for the varsity golf team next season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Ohlinger, Harrington headline potential returning players from six-win varsity lineup

ROCHELLE — Head coach Glen Mehrings wasn’t sure what to expect from his players when the Rochelle Township High School golf program teed off the 2020 season in August. While the COVID-19 pandemic limited practice opportunities during the spring and summer, the Hubs pushed through the unprecedented circumstances and posted a six-win season along the way.

Rochelle finished 6-6 overall and 2-5 in the Interstate 8 Conference this fall. It was the second straight season the Hubs recorded six victories, and although Rochelle will be graduating three varsity seniors, there are several returning players who could step up for the Hubs in 2021.

“It’s hard for the kids to develop great physical habits when we only have a seven-week season,” Mehrings said. “The kids tried really hard to develop their swing mechanics and their mental framework for how to attack the course, negotiate tough shots and stay calm under pressure. There are so many variables that go into becoming a better golfer, and our kids had to negotiate through a lot of stressful situations this year. The kids followed the example set by our seniors and they never panicked throughout the season. It was a great group of kids.”

Among Rochelle’s graduating seniors will be Megan Thiravong, who departs as the most accomplished player in school history. Thiravong finished her career as a four-time conference, regional and sectional medalist as well as a three-time IHSA State Championship qualifier. The Lady Hub standout was Rochelle’s first-ever female conference champion and as a freshman, she became the program’s first female player to qualify for state in over two decades.

“Megan set an example for the other kids,” Mehrings said. “She was always willing to help out the other players and she’s easily the most decorated golfer I’ve had in my 28 years here. She would have been a four-time state qualifier this year, and she improved her scores at the state meet each year. It was a pleasure to see her develop over her four years with the program.”

Seniors Reese Kirk and newcomer Dominic Williams are also set to depart after holding down two of the team’s top four varsity spots in 2020. Sophomore Griffin Ohlinger, who earned an All-Conference Honorable Mention this season, headlines a trio of underclassmen that could see varsity action next year.

Sophomores Damen Harrington and Wade Smith, as well as juniors Brett Ferguson and Levi Lawhorn, could see their roles increase in 2021. Freshman Alivia Henkel could also be in line to carry the torch as Rochelle’s lone female player next season.

“Good things will happen when our players put in the time to improve, and it was really nice to see a new player like Dominic do that because the younger players see that,” Mehrings said. “Reese is a player who really loves golf and wants to practice and compete every day. He has a competitive, fun personality and he helped set an example for our team over the last four years… Reese was a great athlete with a lot of raw talent who wanted to get better each year.”

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