What do Jed Curtis, Sean Bostrom, Don Parker and Jake Mills have in common?
The members of the Evanston boys golf coaching staff have turned their sport into a thinking man’s game at the high school level.
Watch the ETHS players in action — starting Thursday when they play a quadrangular with Loyola Academy, New Trier and Oak Park-River Forest — and you’ll notice right away that the Kits don’t just grip it — and rip it.
Head coach Curtis and the rest of the staff have tried to teach all of the players at every level of the program to THINK their way around the golf course, too.
That’s probably one reason the Wildkits typically play their best golf when it matters most, at the end of the season during the 3-step Illinois High School Association state tournament postseason tests.
Do your homework and you’ll probably succeed.
“I think we have a great staff and we work on their swings, on their short game, on their putting and on the mental game, too,” Curtis explained. “Even our younger guys have shown the ability to think their way around the courses.
“The golf IQ here right now is as high as we’ve ever had it. The kids don’t just grab a driver and rip it. They really seem to be students of the game, and they’re a lot more well-rounded with their skills because of that.”
The 2019 version of the Wildkits will have to replace Tommy Barbato, who tied for 31st place at the IHSA state finals last fall, but a deep group of juniors could make this the season that Curtis has been waiting for since the Class of 2021 first entered ETHS.
Seniors Jack Skidmore, Mike Levitas and Josh Lipman will have to fight off challenges from the junior class, headed by Tejas Baichwal and Peter Barbato, and there are others in the pipeline who could break through in a big way, too.
Curtis knows there’s no such thing as “too much” depth and thinks the competition for spots in the starting lineup will benefit everyone involved.
“This is the biggest team we’ve had in a while, and we have a big group of juniors who are talented, hungry and dedicated to golf,” he said. “We’ve had pretty high hopes all along for this group of juniors coming up and now they’re here. For us, traditionally we’ve had 1 or 2 guys who can give us good scores and then we’d fill in with guys who could shoot in the high 70s — if they got hot. But this year, every kid has a chance to give us a good score.
“These kids have all pushed themselves to get better, and with the numbers we have, no one can sit back and be comfortable because they’ve got a spot (in the lineup). The competition will be there for them every day. They’re great kids and they’re great teammates who all want to play well and beat each other.”
Skidmore will take on the challenge of the No. 1 slot in the lineup, although as a junior he had the team’s best average for much of the regular season and did play at the No. 1 position on occasion.
Curtis has no doubt he’ll rise to the occasion.
“Jack is a very mature and very bright kid,” the coach praised. “He handles his emotions really well out on the course. I think he’ll embrace that No. 1 spot and he’s really looking forward to being “that guy.” And with the depth we have, the other kids will push him and the pressure won’t be on him to be great every time out, either.
“Jack had a sniff of State last year (falling short at the sectional) and that experience of getting close to Downstate will push him even more.”