By Kyle Daubs
Coach Natalie Ambuehl, who returns for an 18th season for the Mattoon Green Wave (141-108), is not focused on the other teams in the Apollo Conference. She is purely focused on what is happening in Mattoon.
“I don’t focus on other teams,” Ambuehl said. “I can only control what we are doing, not what others are doing. You can only control what you do on the golf course. Every girl will have their own set of struggles. It’s just how you tackle your own adversity and how you can finish strong. At the end of the day, you can only do your very best.”
While the golf season was uncertain, Mattoon found itself in a wave of uncertainty. Mattoon placed third in the Apollo Conference, but lost the Apollo champion and All-State golfer Kira Wolf to graduation. Wolf, one of the best golfers in the program’s history, will compete at the University of Minnesota.
“Losing Kira is obviously a big deal,” said Ambuehl. “We have never had a caliber of player like her before. I don’t want to throw her sister Tiffany under the bus because she was very successful in high school and college. However, Kira was just better, and we are hopeful she can have a successful college career, too.”
The Lady Wave have two foundational players. Callan Haldorsen and Mackenzie Bratton qualified for the sectional last year.
Haldorsen finished as an All-Apollo golfer last year after she placed sixth and she was the second advancing individual to the Sectional. Haldorsen’s score of 81 was second best qualifying individual score at the Springfield Regional, only behind the Regional medalist in Wolf.
“We have about 12 girls with about a little more than half who are returners,” said Ambuehl. “We have two strong leaders back in Kenzie and Callan. They are going to be supported by some solid kids. It’s too early to tell as far as abilities, but our top five or six sports could change throughout the season.”
Like all schools in the state, Mattoon has been navigating COVID-19. Golfers now wear masks at all times except when swinging, and hand sanitizer is available before each hole.
“Everyone has been coming to practice and abiding by the guidelines set forth by the IHSA,” said Ambuehl. “They wear their masks. There’s no complaining. They have a great attitude for the year. We have a great pool of young women who listen, take feedback, and want to learn about golf and lifelong skills that they can enjoy throughout their life.”
Mattoon’s roster is not finalized, which is a positive in part to the restrictions. The volleyball season was moved to the spring, and it appears that some athletes have been sprinkling in each day.
“We will never turn anyone away,” said Ambuehl. “I believe in empowering young ladies who didn’t have the opportunity to learn how to play the game and get to be competitive. If it’s their first time, great. If we can teach them something they will use as a hobby and carry into their adult life, we will take that.”
It takes a couple of weeks for the team to get their feet wet, but with an inexperienced team, Ambuehl likes what she sees at practice so far.
“As far as goals, we want to continue to build relationships with each other and spread positivity during this pandemic,” said Ambuehl. “We are going to navigate through this the best we can. Right now, our girls have been fantastic. They are encouraging each other in practice and cheering when someone does well. It’s the little things that can turn into big things when you string them together.”
|9/1||Centennial, Central, Eisenhower||U of Illinois||4 pm|
|9/2||Charleston, Effingham||Charleston CC||4 pm|
|9/15||Mahomet||Meadowview GC||4 pm|
|9/22||Central, Sullivan||U of Illinois||4 pm|
|9/24||Effingham, St. Anthony||Effingham||4 pm|