Varsity girls golf debuting at Woodridge this season
PENINSULA — For the first time, Woodridge High School is fielding a varsity girls golf team — and the squad is being led by a first-time head coach.
Although this is his first year as a high school golf coach, Bob Crane said he has plenty of experience teaching the sport to teens.
“I teach golf at Brandywine [Golf Course] as the director of the Brandywine teen league. I have been doing that for 10 years,” he said. “It’s a seven-week program, one day a week. I will continue to do that.”
In addition, Crane is the director of the teen league at the Valleaire Golf Club.
“I’ve done that for three years,” he said. “These are public courses and they don’t have PGA professionals as their instructors.”
Crane — who also has owned a golf business, Nexxcel Golf Strategies, since 1993 — said the challenges of starting up a new team are different than one may think.
“Learning how to play in high school matches is different than playing a friendly match with people you know. There are rules, there are coaches — these are all new things for the girls,” he said. “This is the biggest thing for the girls. For the program, doing the scheduling, the scores, evaluating your scores, that is fairly easy to do. But learning how to play matches in a tournament golf environment is the biggest challenge for a team that has none of that. It requires a special kind of focus.”
The inaugural Woodridge girls golf team features seven players: five juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
Crane said the team’s freshman, Cameron Fishback, provides the team with a spark.
“She’s excited about golf. Her parents are very, very supportive of her excitement,” he said. “Her excitement is catchy. Plus, she’s playing well.”
The team’s captain is junior Mary Shallahamer.
“She was elected by the team,” Crane said. “She’s the best player on the team. She is someone all of the girls look up to based on her ability to play and also on her ability to communicate. When we practice, I try to have someone different with her every time because when you play with better golfers, you learn a lot.”
Another player Crane said he is excited to watch develop is junior Arielle Chopka.
“Arielle has some golf experience, but it’s mostly been with family and friends,” the coach said. “She has promise from the standpoint that she has really good golf knowledge and she knows how to work her way around a golf course.”
The other members of the team are sophomore Jamie Vanaman and juniors Amanda Green, Jasmine Curley and Sarah Dick.
“This is a new sport for them,” Crane said. “They’re working as they go. They’re all very athletic and they’re smart, so they are picking up on this fast, and that’s exciting for me. These girls are competitive, I’ll tell you that.”
With six members, Crane said Woodridge is fielding a full varsity team, but the school doesn’t have enough athletes yet to support a junior varsity team.
“It’s definitely a goal to build the program,” said Crane, whose assistant coach this season is Carole Avella. “The girls are really excited to have their own team, but they want to learn how to compete and win.”
The season began Aug. 9, and Woodridge already has notched its first-ever win in varsity girls golf.
“We had our third match today,” Crane said Aug. 16. “We won our first match today [over Cuyahoga Heights High School], so we’re 1-2. The team was ready to play today and ready to do their best.”
The coach said he has seen improvement from the team already.
“Each time they get out [onto the course], I say, ‘Keep learning. Don’t give up. You’ll always run into something new,’” Crane said. “The hard work will turn into success.”
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