Coach Gina Hirsch, in her 18th season at the helm of the Highland High School girls golf program, is excited to lead a group this year who will use considerable intelligence and a strong work ethic to combat their lack of experience.
“We’re going to be really young this campaign,” Hirsch said. “It is really fun to work with these kids, and I am really excited, because I don’t know what this season is going to bring.
“Normally, I would say that we are going to win conference and that kind of stuff. But this year, it’s all just guesses, which is kind of fun, because I don’t know what to expect. That is almost good ,because then the kids don’t feel pressure and they can just go out and play. But we’ve got great golfers and great kids.”
Hirsch would not put it past her team to continue the program’s domination of the Mississippi Valley Conference. Since Hirsch took over the reins in the fall of 1998, the Lady Bulldogs have won the conference crown in 15 times.
“All of these kids are really smart, and that makes my job 100 times easier, because they have the capability to learn fast,” she said. “Could we win MVC? I would expect so.
“We are Class A. Can we get through regionals? I think so. I would not be in this coaching spot if I didn’t think we could do that. So, we will just keep our fingers crossed and we will have to work hard for everything we get. What is great about these kids is that they are not afraid to work. They will listen to what we tell them.”
In addition to herself, Hirsch is speaking about assistant coach Brendan Bargetzi, who is the son of Highland Country Club president Gary Bargetzi and a former Bulldogs standout golfer.
“Brendan is one of the best golfers that I seen go through Highland High School, so he is a tremendous help to the kids in the program,” Hirsch said.
Leading the way for Highland this season will be left-hander Allison Young, who is the lone senior with a wealth of varsity experience. After finishing up strong last year, Young is a four-year varsity member.
“She is a great kid and has a great disposition on the course; she doesn’t let things impact her,” Hirsch said. “She is a great senior leader and great to the kids. She has been on the golf team all four years and she is a great senior leader.”
Two key sophomores returning to the program are Rece Portell and Kayla Davis
“Rece made a big impact as a freshman last year and had a scoring average under 50, so I expect Rece, Allison and Kayla Davis to pretty much be my day-to-day golfers,” Hirsch said. “Kayla Davis has been taking lessons, and I was real pleased with the progress I saw from her at the (Highland) Optimist (Shootout) tournament (in June).”
Rounding out a lineup
The last three coveted varsity spots are more up for grabs with the other seven team members vying for them.
The team’s other seniors, Kelsey Lane, Tori Netzer and first-year senior Kristyna Queen, don’t have a lot of varsity experience amongst them.
“I can’t tell you yet where they are going to fit in, but they are such great kids,” Hirsch said. “They are very coachable and listen to what you tell them. I think they are really going to improve their game and we are going to have a lot of fun, but I see these returning seniors being really good to some of these newer kids, these freshmen. In this group, there is a lot of senior leadership that these kids can look up to.”
Joining Queen as an upperclassman who is also a newcomer to the golf program is junior Breanna Frahm.
“She came out and shot in the 50s at the Optimist tournament, so she may be able to impact the varsity right away which is great,” Hirsch said. She is academically very good in the classroom so she has the potential to be a fast learner on the course.”
Three freshmen who have come out this fall are Geena Budwell, Hannah Kernan and Kennedy Klucker.
“They all have some good golf sense so I am really looking forward to what they can do,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch also has the JV golf program that gives her the flexibility to tinker with the lineup and playing time.
“The great thing about golf is that I can rotate my positions 5 and 6 and let everybody get some varsity experience,” she said.
A rich tradition
When Hirsch retires from teaching in the spring of 2018, she will have coached sports (golf, softball and girls tennis) for 30 of her 33 overall years, with all but her first two years of teaching coming in the Highland School District.
Hirsch said the golf programs have been very fortunate here in Highland because the golf tradition is so rich.
“A lot of that is due to the (Highland) country club,” she said. “Our country club lets us play on this course for free, and not too many places do that. They really take an investment in kids.
“This year the junior golf program had over 100 kids coming to junior golf, so that gives me great hope for the future. They (country club) have bought into that those kids are future members, and you just can’t say enough about how great (Highland Country Club president) Gary Bargetzi and the board have been. They have really helped build our program.”
Hirsch also said the parents are an integral part of the program.
“My parents are unbelievable and I could not run the program without their help,” she said. “They are out there helping their kids on a daily basis and they help out marking courses. It is a family affair. The most consistent and stable part of my job is the consistency I get from the country club and the parents and the community. We are all like one big family.”