Taking a final look back at unique 2020 golf season
For all the frustrations of the recently completed fall golf season, one addition could be a game-changer for the sport.
Golf teams began using the iWanamaker app this fall. Players enter their score on their phone after each hole, and coaches, parents and any other interested party can basically follow tournament action in real time from anywhere.
For those who keep track of their favorite high school baseball and softball teams through GameChanger, the iWanamaker app is similar.
"I loved the app and being able to follow player's progress," said St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha. "It gave the feeling of being more connected to the tournament."
Players are instructed to enter their scores and not surf the leaderboard. They are only to use their phones from green to tee.
But sometimes it's hard not to peak.
Geneva junior Reece Clark did just that Tuesday at the Class 2A Rolling Meadows sectional.
"On the front when I was playing pretty lousy I did look because I am pretty nosy and it's hard not to look when it's right there on your phone," Clark said.
Clark was glad to find out that despite her struggles she still found herself in the top 10, and as she started a string of pars on the back nine she played herself into a tie for the lead going into 18.
Gutesha said he had players who did not like the app because being on their phone presented another distraction. They also didn't want to worry about their score and standing and instead focus on each shot.
But for the most part the app drew rave reviews. Grandparents in Florida can follow; parents arriving late from work know what hole to find their child.
Buffalo Grove boys coach Peter Duffer certainly can relate with a son Luke who plays at Rolling Meadows.
At the Mid-Suburban League tournament, Peter followed Luke's score through the app. With three holes to go and knowing Luke was in contention, Peter watched the final few holes live.
"I think it is a welcome upgrade to high school golf," Peter Duffer said. "Hosting a tournament is much more efficient. I typically host 16 teams on Labor Day weekend and the most time consuming task was the scoreboard."
Duffer said not having to work a manual scoreboard frees up time for coaches to spend more time on the course helping players.
There are kinks to work out. If a player's phone or app does not work then coaches manually enter the score every so often online.
Some players complained about having to enter their scores both on their phone and keeping a traditional scorecard.
"We don't want them using their phone during the round for other purposes," Duffer said. "I did not like kids using their phones more but it was a positive trade-off. I hosted a regional and we did limit phone use to green to tee only. Tough to enforce but most phones were out of sight."
Duffer also would like to see changes with the pricing.
"Parents can see their kids scores but do have to pay $30," Duffer said. "That is a downside. I'd rather schools pay a fee for all parents to see scores live.
"I like that it calculates a scoring average and an index. It allows players and teams to be ranked and that is great. I think the IHSA can use that in the future to balance regionals in a better way than just geographical."
Ups and downs
As the season came to an end this week for the top teams and individuals who advanced to sectionals, most reflected on the past two months with a thankful perspective.
"I have had so much fun this season," Prospect girls coach Brad Rathe said. "I think it's what we needed. Both me individually as a teacher and the kids having some social interaction. Something that feels normal. It's been awesome.
"We started thinking we would have eight matches and no weekends. I got 18 matches and played a couple weekends and a conference, regional and sectional. It ended up being great. And I have a group that works so hard."
St. Charles North girls coach Steven Dodd said the lack of weekend 18-hole tournaments made a difference in how his team played in the postseason.
"Credit to all the girls who worked so hard this season under really testing conditions with COVID," Dodd said. "We've lacked consistency with some of our better players because of the lack of invites. I'm disappointed for the seniors the season hasn't been better but we had a season. I'm really proud of their achievements over the years."
Barrington junior Mara Janess and Glenbrook South senior Maria Perakis met in a playoff at the 2019 Class 2A state tournament with Janess prevailing on the first hole to win the state title.
Their 2020 seasons ended without a chance to meet again at state. Janess fired a 68 to win a regional title, then missed sectional because of a commitment she made to play in a IJGA tournament in Florida before the IHSA announced there would be a sectional round.
That created an adjustment, going from high school courses that play about 4,900 yards to the 6,200 in Florida.
"All courses in high school are pretty short," Janess said. "Those (distances) are why I approach the tournaments so different."
Perakis, who will play at Bradley next year, had the lead going into the final three holes at the Class 2A Rolling Meadows sectional before two tough holes denied her the title.
It wasn't the ending either player wanted, and it was especially disappointing for Perakis who won't be back next year.
Glenbrook South coach Thomas Cieplik said Perakis will leave quite a legacy after finishing 19th, fifth and second in three state tournaments.
"The team is going to miss her next year," Cieplik said. "Her leadership and her scores. It was great to see her transform from sophomore year to this outspoken leader she is now. I think a lot of girls learned from her, our younger girls saw what it takes to have the success."