December 27, 2023 at 12:53pm
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Article by Elena Ferrarin
Northbrook Park District
When the Glenbrook North High School girls’ golf team took home a state championship trophy in October, it was cause for celebration at the Northbrook Park District.
That’s because most of the girls on the team got their start at the park district, where they developed and honed their skills through golf lessons, programs and activities. Also, the park district’s Heritage Oaks Golf Club, which has a 9-hole course and an 18-hole course, and Anetsberger Golf Course, which has a 9-hole course, are the home practice courses for the Glenbrook North team.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment for Glenbrook North and the team, coaches, parents and the community overall. We are really proud of them,” said Michael Wenzel, the park district’s PGA Director of Instruction for the Northbrook Golf Academy, which encompasses all youth and adult golf. “They happened to grow up in this area, with all the resources we have at our facilities. I can’t think of a better place to learn to play the game.”
The Glenbrook North team altogether consists of 12 players, eight of whom, including two alternates, traveled to Decatur to play in the state championship. The six players in the lineup that beat the defending state champion, Hinsdale Central High School, and took home the trophy were juniors Kacie Moon and Alexis Myers, sophomores Alison Chung, Martha Kuwahara and Laura Hu, and freshman Lindsey Huang. Five of the six — Kacie, Alexis, Alison, Martha and Lindsey — learned to play through park district programs in Northbrook.
The players had a “fantastic focus” on winning as a team, Glenbrook North girls’ golf coach Mike Schroeder said. “They are outstanding players. They are amazing,” Schroeder said. “They share a common love of the game, and they are really supportive and encouraging of each other.”
The Glenbrook North team practices from early August through October, primarily at Heritage Oaks, with short game practice at Anetsberger. Individually, players also take private lessons at various locations and participate in competitive tournaments year-round.
“The Northbrook Park District has been really great in helping get young players interested in the game. The coaches there have given lessons to a ton of players,” Schroeder said. “As a high school team, the park district has been great in giving us facilities to practice and grow the game.”
A Great Place to Learn
The Glenbrook North golfers said taking lessons at the park district is the perfect introduction to golf, thanks to a combination of skilled instruction, a caring environment and great facilities. Over the years, the girls have participated in a variety of park district golf programs, including clinics, private lessons and travel teams.
Alison, who won the park district’s Youth Junior Club championship last summer, started by taking lessons with Wenzel around age 10. “I love Heritage Oaks, it’s a really great course, and Anetsberger is really nice, it’s a great place to practice and hang out and chill,” she said. “Golf is a sport for the whole family… and it’s also a really beautiful game.”
Martha said having both 9-hole and 18-hole courses in Northbrook allowed her to have “the full experience.” “I just loved going to the park district because the coaches were really nice, and I really like the people who work there,” she said.
Lindsey agreed, saying the park district coaches are “really attentive.”
“They taught the fundamentals that helped boost my skills,” she said. “The facilities provide a great place for people to play and learn golf, and I enjoy using them in the summer as well. I would recommend that experience to young golfers, as they have so much to learn from it. It helped me grow a lot as a player and made golf fun for me.”
Wenzel also credited the instruction of Coach Chu-Han Lee, who recently transitioned to teaching private lessons only, and Coach Melissa Goldberg, an LPGA member who leads the LPGA Girls’ Golf program for girls ages 8 to 14.
A Focus on Girls’ Golf
When Wenzel started the girls’ golf program around 2007, his goal was to introduce students to the sport in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Participants at first numbered four to six girls, then grew to about a dozen.
Goldberg came on board in 2017, and set out to give the program a more well-defined focus and structure. By 2021, there were 22 participants. This year, there were a whopping 55.
“I turned it into a skills clinic where we focus on the basics: putting, chipping, full swing,” Goldberg explained. “For the final class, they play at Anetsberger, which is the perfect place for beginner and intermediate golfers. They play on a short, par 3 course, and it takes the pressure off.”
Current and former members of the Glenbrook North girls’ golf team help Golberg run the LPGA Girls’ Golf program, which her young students really enjoy, Goldberg said. “They have camaraderie and support, and they definitely like having them as mentors.”
Girls’ golf has grown tremendously thanks to veteran players like Michelle Wi and Annika Sörenstam, and now players like Nelly Korda, Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson, Goldberg said. “The LPGA has grown leaps and bounds in the last 50 years, and in the last decade I have definitely seen it accelerating a lot in popularity,” she said. “Girls can turn on TV and they see these women on the LPGA that are so talented… that’s huge. I have seen a lot more girls playing golf, and the quality of their play improves every year that I come back to our golf course.”
The incremental successes of the Glenbrook North girls’ golf team — which made the state championship for the first time in 2021, followed by third place in 2022 — also boosted participation in the park district’s programs, Wenzel said.
“This is a very competitive town, so as the girls’ team gained more notoriety for going to state, parents saw that,” he said. “Golf is such a great sport and teaches such great values. You learn hard work and dedication, respect, playing by the rules and etiquette. You also are playing a game with adults, so you’re learning how to act and be responsible.”
One of the best aspects of golf is that it’s a sport for the whole family, he added. “There is no other game you can play with your siblings, your parents and your grandparents, all at the same time.”
The Northbrook Park District offers a host of options for young golfers:
- Summer golf camps for ages 5 to 15
- A youth golf development program for ages 3 to 11 (held indoors in winter)
- Youth golf leagues for ages 8 to 14, including the LPGA Girls’ Golf program, an NGA youth league, an NGA travel league and a PGA junior league.
- Private lessons through Northbrook Golf Academy
For more information, visit the Northbrook Golf Academy page on the Heritage Oaks Golf Club website at heritageoaksgc.com/nga.
Most members of the Glenbrook North High School’s girls’ golf team that won this year’s state championship started playing at the Northbrook Park District. Pictured from left are Chris Cooper, Glenbrook North High School assistant girls’ golf coach, players Alexis Myers, Alison Chung, Kacie Moon, Lindsey Huang, Erin Jeon, Laura Hu, Alina Chie and Martha Kuwahara, and head coach Mike Schroeder.