Golf: Ottawa takes Interstate 8 opener over Rochelle

Kirk leads Hubs with 43 as Pirates win 172-185


ROCHELLE — Trees are the main hazard for players to maneuver at Fairways Golf Course, and that’s what Rochelle Township High School senior Reese Kirk was able to do when the Hubs hosted Ottawa for their first Interstate 8 Conference match of the season on Wednesday.

Bouncing back from a high-scoring round against Dixon and Freeport on Tuesday, Kirk led Rochelle with a team-low 43 over nine holes and paced the Hubs to a final score of 185, six strokes less than their total the previous day. Senior Megan Thiravong also carded 43 for Rochelle, but behind a match-low 38 from Drake Stoudt, Ottawa finished with 172 to earn the victory. The Hubs (2-1, 0-1 Interstate 8) will face Kaneland at Hughes Creek on Thursday.

“We had a lot of things to think about over the summer, but getting our first meet of the season in on Tuesday helped us clear out some of the doubts,” Kirk said. “My recovery shots were the keys for me today. I didn’t hit many good shots off the tee, but I was able to stay focused and recover to put the ball back in play and save some strokes on my round.”

Drake Kaufman and Jonathan Cooper supported the Ottawa squad with scores of 43 and 45, respectively, while Michael Bruner chipped in 46 for the Pirates. Sophomore Griffin Ohlinger shot 47 out of the No. 3 varsity spot on the Rochelle side, with fellow sophomore Damen Harrington carding 52 and taking nine strokes off his round from Tuesday afternoon.

“There are a lot of trees in the way on this course, especially near the pins,” Kirk said. “We have to navigate around the trees here, otherwise our balls will be out of bounds. The greens are sloped as well, so we need to be careful with our chip shots so we don’t put the ball over. It’s a tough course to play, but it becomes a lot easier to manage once we get used to it.”

Wednesday’s round was far more competitive than the Rochelle-Ottawa matchup in 2019, when the Pirates defeated the Hubs by 60 strokes (159-219). Another tough opponent lies ahead in the Kaneland Knights, who downed Rochelle by 40 strokes (160-200) last season, but Kirk and his teammates know they can hang with the best of the Interstate 8 this year.

“We have to show up and be ready to play,” Kirk said. “We have talented players on our team.”