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updated: 8/17/2012 7:24 PM

Renner making St. Viator happy

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  • St. Viator boys golf coach Jack Halpin gives junior Robert Renner some insight before he tees off at the Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect.

       St. Viator boys golf coach Jack Halpin gives junior Robert Renner some insight before he tees off at the Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect.
    Joel Bissell | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator junior Robert Renner tees off at Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect during a practice session.

       St. Viator junior Robert Renner tees off at Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect during a practice session.
    Joel Bissell | Staff Photographer

  • St. Viator junior Robert Renner tees off at Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect during a practice session.

       St. Viator junior Robert Renner tees off at Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect during a practice session.
    Joel Bissell | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

There is a real-life Happy Gilmore story happening in Arlington Heights.

With a few obvious and very important differences.

In the popular Adam Sandler vehicle, Happy Gilmore was a hockey nut who took up golf to help save his grandmother's house from foreclosure, with predictably disastrous and ultimately comedically triumphant results.

St. Viator's Robert Renner is also a star on the ice and on the links, but contrary to Happy Gilmore, he has seriously excelled over the years in both sports.

And if you look at Renner's stats, you'll see it's no joke at all -- just a motivated prep player with truckloads of talent.

The junior has put up a couple of special hockey seasons for the Lions, and his 96 points last year as a sophomore helped lead Viator all the way to the Blackhawk Cup -- the state championship game.

Now this fall, he's taking his talents back to the links with spectacular results.

"Robert's always been a good golfer," said Viator coach Jack Halpin. "He shot 75 in his final three rounds as a freshman, and he knocked in a hole-in-one at regionals last year.

"His first sport has been hockey, and he led the school with 37 goals last season including 5 in one game. He played in 54 hockey games last season, so he really never had any time for golf except during the high school season -- but all of that changed this year."

Renner made a commitment to do whatever it took to move into the upper echelon of the golf world, working every day during the summer with golf coach and Viator alum John Perna and current teammate Luke DeTrempe.

The results have already been outstanding. Renner won the recentlyconcluded CDGA Illinois State Junior AM in a four-way playoff, and started the high school season Monday with a medalist performance at the prestigious Rolling Green Invitational -- firing a 2-under 70 in inclement conditions.

"Robert worked every single day on his game with John's guidance," added Halpin, "and all that work has certainly been worth the effort."

Renner definitely agrees.

"Over the summer I decided to concentrate on golf," said Renner, "and after I met Mr. Perna at one of our meetings, with Luke's recommendation I decided to go with him. Turns out he's one the best coaches around.

"The CDGA tournament win was my first ever, and it was amazing."

Renner birdied the second playoff hole to take the title, and although there was a big crowd watching the golfers, the junior said he wasn't that nervous.

"It was exciting for sure, but I'm used to playing in front of hundreds of fans at the hockey rink, so that didn't bother me."

Renner actually got a "late" start, if you want to call it that, on the links. He started playing hockey at the age of 3, but didn't take up golf until he was about 10 years old.

And though he's always had the talent, something just seemed to click this summer with the guidance of Perna and DeTrempe.

"I think my biggest improvement is with the mental game," said Renner.

"With John's help, I've made the game simpler, and I'm able to bounce back now from any bad shots. I'm relaxed, and I can do a lot better now by following up a disappointing hole with a birdie."

And Renner says the preparation for the golf season as compared to the hockey season is similar -- but oh, so different.

"I basically work out the same, getting in shape for both sports," said Renner. "But once the season starts it's an entirely different mentality. In hockey, you're trained to be as aggressive as possible.

On the course you have to try to stay relaxed and try not to be aggressive."

Renner's emergence has given Viator a hope at another long post-season run as the 2012 Lions try to establish their own identity.

"The disappointment of not getting out of regionals for a second year in a row last fall was huge," says Halpin. "We know we are in the toughest regional in the state but that's just a fact of life. Our team knows this, and this year they've decided to do something about it."

"We're solid and we've got the potential, and we're more confident this year," adds Renner. "I think we've got a group of kids who can go to state and win, and I'm excited about that."

Also going into battle this year along with Renner and DeTrempe will be stellar junior Hudson Luthringhausen and sophomore Nick Carlson (the brother of Joe Carlson, holder of the IHSA low-medal record round of 137 at the state finals.)

Rounding out the cast will be Charles Derrick, a senior, along with incoming freshman Liam Warner, Matt Trimsberger, Johnny Carlson, Jake Stapuszek and Preston Drehobel.

"This all adds up," said Halpin, "to the fact that these guys feel that it's time for their own legacy."

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