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posted: 6/8/2012 10:55 PM

Special finish for Prospect three-sport star Walsh

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  • Prospect's Allison Walsh was at her best on the golf course, where she won an individual state title while leading the Knights to the team state championship last fall. Equally impressive were the terrific achievements in bowling and badminton sparked by her athleticism and mental toughness.

       Prospect's Allison Walsh was at her best on the golf course, where she won an individual state title while leading the Knights to the team state championship last fall. Equally impressive were the terrific achievements in bowling and badminton sparked by her athleticism and mental toughness.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 
 

So how good an athlete is Allison Walsh, last fall's Class 4A state girls golf champion from Prospect High School?

Knights bowling coach Greg Troyer sums it up well.

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"I only wonder what type of bowler Allison might have become had she bowled 9 months per year and only golfed 3 months per year," Troyer said. "Without a doubt, she would be going to some school on a bowling scholarship rather than Bradley University on a golf scholarship. To me, that is unbelievable."

It was indeed an unbelievable career that Walsh carved out in her four years at Prospect playing the "lifelong" sports of golf, bowling and badminton.

She has been named the 2011-12 Daily Herald Female Athlete of the Year.

Walsh qualified for state in all three sports, including her state championship in golf at Hickory Point Golf Club in Decatur.

That first-place finish (77-72 for 149), by 1 stroke over Hampshire's Connie Ellett, helped the Knights win their first state title in a girls sport and fourth overall.

"Our team winning state was the best," Walsh said. "Mainly because a lot of the sports I play are not your 'normal' team sports. But I have never felt more part of a team than at state and when we found out we won it all. We were hugging and crying. It meant so much more to me to do it as a team. We really felt like we accomplished a really hard goal that we set for ourselves for a long time."

It could be a long time before Prospect sees another athlete succeed in bowling, golf and badminton like Walsh did.

While many more students focus on one sport today, Walsh is a proponent of the multisport approach.

"I definitely endorse it," said Walsh, who even more amazingly didn't start playing any of her current sports until high school. "Playing all these sports has taught me so much as a person. I feel like I have learned so much from having the different experience in each one. And setting goals in each and working for them. And the coaches I've been blessed with at Prospect have been huge. They have meant so much to me and really showed me how to work for something."

And making it all the more special for Allison was that she got to work for things with her sister Kiley, a sophomore and teammate on the golf and badminton teams.

Allison and Kiley advanced to the top 24 in state badminton as doubles partners and they were fifth in the Mid-Suburban League meet.

As a junior, Allison skipped the badminton season to play in spring golf meets.

"That was a big part of the reason I really wanted to come back to try badminton again as a senior," Allison said. "I really wanted be partners with Kiley and I never thought we would do so well."

Knights badminton coach Jean Rezny was hardly surprised.

"It has been my honor to work with Allison," Rezny said. "She has proved to be an outstanding athlete, student and citizen. I have worked with many athletes over the years, and I truly believe she rates among one of the finest."

Walsh has been one of the finest in the classroom, too, winning the District 214 Lester Award for top student-athlete. A National Honor Society student, Walsh owns a GPA of better than 5.0 as an academic all-conference selection. She also served as a member of LEAP (Leaders Energizing Athletics at Prospect) and Knights' Way Leader.

And how respected is Walsh by her peers?

On the same week she won the state golf tournament, Walsh was selected as Homecoming Queen.

"Allison is one of the most coachable, positive girls I have ever coached," said girls golf coach Jim Hamann. "She bought into our team practices from day one and saw her scores dropped quickly.

"As a result of her quick improvements and her love for her teammates, she fell in love with the game. Allison worked extremely hard during every off-season and during the season to improve and to accomplish her goals. I am so proud of her."

When Hamann said "quick" improvement, he meant it.

Walsh did not score under 100 as a freshman when she began the game.

"Talk about dedication, commitment and athleticism," Hamann said of his two-time all-conference golfer who holds the Prospect scoring records for 9 holes (33) and 18 (72).

At Bradley, Walsh plans to study secondary education, focusing on social studies or Spanish.

"I would love to get into coaching one day," she said. "My dream would be to come back to Prospect and coach as many sports as they would let me."

She sure has played a lot of sports.

Prior to high school, Walsh participated in basketball, travel soccer, softball and track and field, which she did as a freshman at Prospect.

As a sophomore, she cracked Troyer's varsity lineup early in the season.

"I thought Allison might be ready to crack the varsity lineup by the end of the year," he said. "That idea lasted midway through her first tournament of the year (Thanksgiving weekend) where, as a sophomore, she beat all but one of the varsity that morning."

Troyer moved Walsh to the varsity that afternoon and she never left.

"Allison didn't know much about varying lane conditions, or how to adjust to convert various spares, but she trusted me completely," Troyer said. "I would tell her to move her feet to this point, aim at this point, and trust her ball, and she would, and the result was usually very positive."

She finished 12th in the Mid-Suburban League meet, and just missed qualifying as a MSL conference medalist, averaging 186 for the MSL season.

As a junior, Walsh was the team's No. 2 bowler and finished as a MSL conference medalist, earning the ninth-place medal with a 195 average. The Knights finish sixth in the state and Walsh was 46th, averaging 196 in 12 games.

After winning the golf title, Walsh hadn't picked up a bowling ball since the last day of the state bowling tournament, nine months earlier.

On the first day of practice, Troyer had his players work on some drills for 45 minutes and then turned on the automatic scoring for a game.

Walsh came out and rolled a 253.

"And that was after nine months of not bowling at all," Troyer said. "That's just an example of Allison's athletic abilities -- unbelievable."

Walsh finished second with a 199.1 average for the season. She also bowled the third-highest game of the entire season, a 257 game.

"Allison only bowls three months each year, and the only person to average higher was Elk Grove's Tedra Tado, a 12-month bowler who earned the fifth-place medal at the IHSA state finals in 2011," Troyer said "Allison is simply the best athlete that I've ever coached. There have been a few better bowlers in those 18 years, but not better athletes."

Troyer sees a parallel between Walsh's golf and bowling games.

"For someone who only bowls for 3 months per year, her ability to successfully repeat a delivery is phenomenal," he said. "And her kinesthetic awareness -- her ability to know what the various parts of her body are doing -- is unbelievable.

"Of course, much of this is due to her extensive work on her golf game, since the skills of the two sports are very similar. In fact, many times I would try to relate bowling to golf, talking about weight transfer, swing direction, or angle of contact with the ball. Most of the time she would relate it, and some of the time she would just laugh."

Troyer was amazed by Walsh's physical skills.

"But Allison's best asset sits on top of her shoulders," he said. "Her confidence, ability to focus on the present (and not the last or next shot), her competitive drive, her ability to communicate, and her ability to lead her teammates are her best attributes. The hours spent golfing and working with coach Hamann and the golf team helped her become an excellent bowler and team captain."

And Allison's parents Pat and Susie are always supporting their daughters.

"They are wonderful parents and obviously the biggest influence in Allison's life," Troyer added. "They have raised a wonderful young adult, and have always been huge supporters of Allison, as well as the entire bowling program. They deserve most of the credit for what Allison has achieved."

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