Golf's in the past and future for Prospect's Walsh
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Prospect's Kiley Walsh has a future in collegiate golf at Illinois State.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
When she looks out her kitchen window onto the 14th hole of the Mt. Prospect Golf Course, it's almost surreal as she thinks back six or seven years.
Prospect's Kiley Walsh remembers when she was eight years old and the course was her little playground. She'd follow her older sisters playing or tag along with her parents, perhaps doing a few round-offs and flips in the sand traps from her gymnastics training. Or enjoying a ride in the golf cart. Or setting up some orange cones and playing kick ball with her friends on the open turf when no one was around.
Now, that same course has become serious business.
Walsh has gone from fooling around on the course to fooling around with course records.
The senior has already broke the school mark for nine holes (4-under par 32 on the back) and owns the third best 18-hole score (71) in school history.
Now, in less than 12 months, Walsh will probably find it a little unusual when she will call the course her old high school course.
That's because then, she will have a new home -- the Wiebring Golf Course in Normal.
Walsh has made a verbal commitment to play for coach Darby Sligh's Illinois State Redbird women's golf team.
"It's a great fit for her, athletically and academically," said Prospect coach Jim Hamann, who played collegiately at Wiebring as a freshman scholarship golfer for the Redbirds. "I know she will be a contributor right away. She is the type of person who puts team first and herself second. That attitude will fit in right away anywhere. Illinois State has a great catch there, I'm also excited she's close enough where coach (Tim) Casper (Knights assistant) and I can go watch her."
It's been watching Hamann build the Prospect program in a prep power that made Walsh want to play at Illinois State.
Sure, she thought a lot about playing in a warm climate where she would soak in the sun day after day.
"My decision (committing to Illinois State) wasn't how I thought it would turn out," she admits. "But what happened is that I liked Illinois State from a golf perspective. It's a program in which everything reminded me of Prospect. I can't imagine anything different from playing with my last team at Prospect, my last teammates and this my last time for coach Hamann. But I think it's going to be the same at Illinois State. It's a lot to live up to, but I think it will happen."
And no more than an hour away is her sister Allison, now playing for Bradley.
"I couldn't be happier for Kiley and her family," said Hamann about the sixth Division I player he has coached in his nine seasons and 12th to go on to play in college. "It's well-deserved, and she is an excellent player and an even a better person."
A person who excels in the classroom, as well. Walsh is a National Honor Society student with a weighted GPA of 4.6 on a 5.0 scale.
She plans to studying secondary education, with an emphasis on Spanish.
She would love to join Hamann one day as his assistant. She'd even love to coach one day with her sister, who is also studying education. Walsh won't have to look far to find a few familiar faces on her new golf team.
Three years ago when she was a freshman, Walsh had an awesome experience playing an IJGA tourney with Renee Solberg of Wheaton Warrenville South.
"She shot a 77," Walsh said "And she was so nice. I was in awe."
Guess what? Solberg is now a freshman playing in Normal.
"I thought she was so nice and we became really good friends," Walsh said. "She was outstanding in my process of looking for a college because she was not biased to Illinois State at all. She told me wherever I chose, she'd be happy."
It became a no-brainer for Walsh when she got on campus and met the team.
"Everyone was so nice," she said. "The families of everyone were so nice. The parents all like to be out on the course and watching. They're all positive people. Everything was just like Prospect. I felt like it was my Prospect team."
Even the head coach.
"Coach Sligh is super easy to talk to," Walsh said. "She is perfect for women's collegiate golf. She gets excited for you. Her personality is just like coach Hamann's. She even uses the word 'awesome' which you won't hear from a lot of coaches."
This past summer while playing at the MAJGT, Walsh became friends with current Redbird Maggie Ambrose, who graduated from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School.
And Walsh has also become friends along the way with Geneva senior Abby Luchtenberg, who like Walsh, is one of the top seniors in the state and also an ISU recruit.
In less than 10 months, they will become Redbirds.
"It still hasn't hit me that I've committed to a college and that the process is basically completed," Walsh said. "I'd get stressed over tests and quizzes but now all I have to worry about is my school work and golf."
One day, Walsh would like to be helping others with their schoolwork and golf game.
"What would really be cool is if Allison and I were one day working together at Prospect," Kiley said. "It's a stretch but if it happened, it would be so fun. If I could be with my sister and coach Hamann at Prospect, it would be a dream come true."
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