Golf: Short-game strides helping Ohlinger find the hole

Chipping, putting key RTHS sophomore's recent success

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Chipping and putting were two skills Griffin Ohlinger knew he needed to improve as he prepared for his sophomore season with the Rochelle Township High School golf team.

Ohlinger spent his summer playing at least nine holes almost every day. Ohlinger also worked with golf instructor Biv Wadden to refine his mechanics and improve his swing and putting stroke. His efforts have certainly paid off this fall, as Ohlinger has become one of Rochelle’s best and most consistent players, scoring in the low-to-mid 40s in nearly every head-to-head meet.

“I realized my short game was my weakness,” Ohlinger said. “I couldn’t putt for much last season but I’ve put a lot of work into my putting and coach Wadden worked with me a lot over the summer. We had several lessons where we worked on chipping, and we eventually moved up to practicing with my longer clubs before we finished with a lot of putting lessons.”

Ohlinger quickly rose to the varsity level as a freshman, carding scores in the upper 40s and lower 50s and shooting scores around 100 in 18-hole tournaments. His confidence has grown significantly since his first varsity match in 2019, and while he still had some goosebumps when the Hubs teed off the 2020 season, the game has started to come easier to him.”

“I was still a little nervous during my first few shots this season,” Ohlinger said. “After that, I told myself that I had to keep moving forward, and I’ve been playing better with more experience. I’ve found myself worrying less and focusing more on my fundamentals.”

Ohlinger’s game has come a long way from when he first took up golf over two years ago. While he initially didn’t take the sport seriously, he gradually warmed up to it as time progressed, and as his passion for the sport has grown, so has his desire to improve and shoot lower scores.

“My parents introduced me to golf and I received my first set of clubs about two and a half years ago,” Ohlinger said. “I was only messing around when I first started playing and I didn’t know much about the game, but I found myself having more fun the better I played. Hitting a good drive, putting the ball in the middle of the fairway and one-putting from a good distance are confidence boosters for me that keep me going as I move forward to the next hole.”

Ohlinger has been an integral player for a Rochelle varsity team that has started the 2020 season 6-2 overall, matching its win total from the last two years combined. He said his goals this season are to continue improving his putting and his shots off the tee box.

“I hope to be shooting in the 70s through 18 holes by next season,” Ohlinger said. “I haven’t been able to do that in tournaments, but I’ve done that during practice rounds where I’m playing at my pace. I have to learn how to play with more people and handle the pressure.”