ROCHELLE — Unfulfilled lineups and inexperience caused the Rochelle golf team to play through the entire 2018 season without earning one victory. That changed when the Hubs hit the tees this fall, however, and the combination of more experience and some surprising freshmen allowed Rochelle to record a far more successful 2019 campaign.
The Hubs went 6-7 overall this season with nonconference wins over Dixon, Freeport, North Boone and Amboy as well as conference victories against Plano and Sandwich. Rochelle placed seventh in the Interstate 8 Conference Championship and ninth in the IHSA 2A Regional at Senica’s Oak Ridge in LaSalle.
“It was a positive season overall,” head coach Glen Mehrings said. “It was a nice surprise having two freshmen in Griffin [Ohlinger] and Damen [Harrington] help out at the varsity level. Megan [Thiravong] anchored us all season, and when we don’t have that No. 1 player, we can’t really build our program. Megan took the lead for our team and she was our low scorer all season.”
Rochelle played the entire season without any seniors, meaning the program won’t lose any players to graduation next year. Junior Megan Thiravong continued her tremendous career with a stellar third season, becoming the first RTHS female to win a conference championship before finishing 12th in the IHSA 1A State Championship as the first three-time state qualifier at RTHS.
“Coach [David] Cartwright worked with her a lot on her mental approach this year,” Mehrings said. “We wanted Megan to be aggressive in good spots because she hits the ball very long off the tee… She can take advantage of that when she’s hitting the ball straight. She hit her driver well at the state course and she really capitalized on hitting shots over certain hazards. There were only a few missed birdie putts keeping her from shooting 69 or 70.”
Junior Reese Kirk could return as Rochelle’s No. 2 player, while sophomores Shepard Hayes and Brett Ferguson as well as freshmen Griffin Ohlinger and Damen Harrington are all eligible to play for the Hubs next season. With the program not losing any seniors, Mehrings said the team has an opportunity to take a significant leap forward next year.
“The kids really enjoy practicing, playing and improving,” Mehrings said. “They all have a pretty resilient demeanor. Shepard and Brett learned how to shake off their bad rounds, and both Griffin and Damen learned that this year since they had to adapt quickly to playing varsity golf as freshmen. They all did a fine job as the year went on.”