PREVIEW: High Returns from 10-year break to coach Northwestern golf team
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
After nearly a decade away from coaching, Steve High finds himself back on the links this year to lead the Northwestern High School girls golf team.
“He started the program, and he (coached) for like 11 years,” said junior Gwen LaPole. “We’re familiar with him because he is our high school principal.
“It’s weird to have an authority level (figure) out here rather than seeing him in the office,” LaPole continued. “But he’s a really good golfer, and he’s really experienced. He knows the game.”
High coached the Tiger girls through the 1990s before handing off the reigns in 2002. He takes over this year from another longtime NHS golf coach, Gary Swanson.
“It feels good. I was thinking ahead two weeks ago before practice, ‘All right what are you going to do? You haven’t done this is 10 years. How is this going to work?’” High said. “I think for the most part you’ve got to go by what worked before.”
High’s first order of business is to help the girls find their feet and gain some confidence. Most of the Tiger golfers have only a few years of experience, and some are brand new to the sport.
“This year our team is a lot younger,” LaPole said. “I think Molly (Lattery) and I are the only two that played consistently on varsity last year.”
The Tigers are without their top golfer from last season, Hayley Botten, and many of Northwestern’s returning players were only freshmen last season. LaPole is the only Tiger golfer this season who has more than one year of varsity experience.
“As Mr. High always says, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,” LaPole said. “That’s one of his favorite sayings.”
High admitted he is fond of the saying and feels it applies particularly well to this year’s team.
“We’re going to be learning as the year goes around,” High said. “That’s what our goal is for everybody; I want them to feel like when we finish on Sept. 23 that they’ve all gotten better, that they’ve all improved.
“We are, in some cases, young; but that’s OK because if we’re young and energetic and enthusiastic, we’ve got nothing to do but improve.”
High is encouraged by the dedication he’s seen from his players to start this season. Of the 12 girls out for the Tigers this season, 11 were at Botten’s Green Acres to practice Monday morning as soon as the golf course opened.
“Everyone is really positive and they’re willing to work to improve,” Lattery said.
She was surprised by the high turnout this season — up three from last year — and thinks it bodes well for the future.
Hayward, with a strong junior class, is expected to take the Heart O’ North Conference crown this season. The Tigers, High said, should find themselves near the middle of the pack.
“We’re building a team this year,” LaPole said. “We’re building a team for years to come.”
Northwestern got its first chance to see how it stacked up against the competition Tuesday in a match with Ladysmith and Luck-Unity — new to the HON this season along with St. Croix Falls.
The Tigers picked up two conference points with a low team score of 208. Ladysmith finished at 234, and Luck-Unity did not have enough golfers to post a team score.
Avery Steen, of Luck-Unity, earned meet medalist honors with a 38. Ladysmith’s Haley Siefert carded a 46 to take second, and Northwestern golfers swept the next three places. Leading Northwestern were Gwen LaPole, 47; Molly Lattery, 50; and Abby Schulz, 52. Macy Meteraud finished of the Tigers scoring with a 59, and Reggie Semanko had a non-counting 60.
In JV action, the Tigers have three players finishing with rounds in the 50s.
“We’re going to have quite the opportunity for those girls down the road here,” High said.