The Althoff Crusaders begin the ‘15 golf season as the premier Class A team in southern Illinois and three of the top players in the St. Louis area as they prepare to defend that elusive state title which came a year ago.
Oh, and one more thing. the Crusaders have a huge target on their backs.
“You better we do. We’re the state champions and everybody wants to beat the state champions,’’ Crusaders coach Tim Gehrs said. “But to the credit of the seven girls we have on this team, they all worked on their games over the summer.”
“Gabby (David), Alaina (Irwin) and Tia (Kimbrough) were all a huge part of that team and they are determined to get back to the state and play well again. The others want a chance to experience what that group did last year. To win a state championship, is what you work for and what you dream about. To have it become a reality like it did last year was something I’ll never forget and something those girls will carry with them for the rest of their lives.’’
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The Crusaders got their season off to a good start on Monday, edging traditional powers Highland and O’Fallon in a scramble like event at Highland Country Club. Althoff will play in its first official stroke-play event at the Goalby-Haas Classic on Thursday at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville.
But no matter the Crusaders do in ‘15, they will be hard pressed to duplicate their storybook season of a year ago. Led by its ‘fab 5’ of Abigail Irwin, Madison Weilbacher, Alaina Irwin, David and Kimbrough, the Crusaders won their first girls state golf championship.
“There were a lot of ups and downs last year. I remember even after we finished playing the final round at state we weren’t sure if we had won it because of the was the state does the scores. When it became official, it was just an amazing feeling. To see a group of girls which had worked so hard achieve their goal of winning the state championship, was just fantastic.’’
While Abigail Irwin and Weilbacher have moved on to college golf, Althoff has the top trio of players in the metro-east area to lead the way this fall.
David, daughter of Althoff assistant and PGA Professional Dale David, is a threat to contend for the individual state championship in October. Now a senior, David is the Crusaders No. 1 player and will attempt to qualify for the state tournament for the third straight year.
“I honestly feel like all of my top three players have a chance to be in the top 10 at the state tournament,’’ Gehrs said. “Gabby has so much knowledge about the game and is a very focused player, both I’m sure come at least in part from her dad. She was a very good No. 2 player r us last year and her and Alaina (Irwin) have really accepted their roles as our captains this season.”
“The captains are responsible for getting the girls together during the summer to play and practice twice a week. Well, this group met at the Orchards every Monday and Tuesday and except for vacations and being out of town, these seven were there every time they met. That shows me how determined they are to get back to the state tournament.’’
David and Kimbrough are both long off the tee and have solid short games. But the Crusaders most consistent player this season should be Alaina Irwin.
“Alaina is just so consistent and straight off the tee,’’ Gehrs said. “She may not be as long as Gabby and Tia, who probably average 230-240 off the tee. But what Alaina does well is hit her short irons and has an excellent short game. She may not be able to reach every hole in regulation, but from 100 yards out, she is almost always able to hit it within 10 feet. There aren’t many players who can do that on a consistent basis.”
Senior Heather Gosebrink is the Crusaders No. 4 player and perhaps one of the most improved players in the metro-east. A three-year letter winner, Gosebrink has taken a good 10-12 strokes off her average from a year
“It’s really amazing the improvement that Heather has made,’’ Gehrs said. “She’s been on the team for three years but at the state tournament last year she came up to me and said that she really wanted to be a part of this and wanted to become a good player. My response was that she had to work very hard, play tournaments, take lessons, whatever it took.”
“Well, she has done exactly that. She worked with (Don) Hawkins at Stonewolf and he said her work ethic and attitude about taking the game more seriously has improved tremendously. She was shooting in the 50’s and 60’s before, now she’s been in the 40’s. I’m very proud of how hard she has worked.”
Gehrs said that sophomores Megan Lewis, Maggie Tiernan and Kindyl Santos are all competing for the 5-6 spots on the team.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 6 18-239-2661.