New faces are nothing new on the high school scene. There’s a 25 percent turnover every year.
A new face in charge of the Mount Carmel golf team? That’s news.
Tom Nicklas had coached the Caravan golfers since 1987. He predated the belly putter, the hybrid club, and the emergence of Tiger Woods.
Nicklas, after threatening to do so for several years, finally made good on the notion of retiring last fall, collecting a final Catholic League coach of the year honor as he finished his 25th season. Rex Martin, a veteran Carmel teacher who had been involved in both the golf and basketball programs in the past, is the new coach.
“I would have helped Tom last year had I known he was retiring,” Martin said.
Martin will be his own man, though the routine of the golf season means little will appear different to outsiders. Like most teams, the Caravan has a heavy slate of action before school opens, including an opening week with three tournaments in as many days, and capped by today’s Mount Carmel Invitational at Water’s Edge Golf Course in Worth.
“This week was crazy,” Martin said.
The method within the madness of playing tournaments on weekdays before classes commence gave Martin an extra chance to see what he has on his squad.
He has talent. It starts with co-captains Louis Vitiritti and Ryan Hernandez, whom Martin looks upon as his bell cows, though in prep golf, every day is different.
That was reinforced opening day, when freshman Luke Hayes, younger brother of the just-graduated Trent Hayes, led the Caravan cause with an 89 in the rain at Joliet Country Club. And Martin hadn’t planned to play Hayes until someone else called and said they couldn’t make it the tournament.
“We went with four seniors (to start) and rotated juniors (and Hayes) in the extra spots,” Martin said. “Now, I’m going to tell everybody that the spots are wide open. Seniors had first shot. They’re laid- back guys. The younger guys will push them.”
Vitiritti says he and Hernandez, after playing on the same team for four years, have their own rivalry.
“More than anything, Ryan and I try to beat each other,” Vitiritti said. “My game, I take it one shot at a time, and I don’t focus on a bad shot. I look forward to the next shot.”
The Caravan slipped to eighth place last year after a pair of mid- pack finishes, but that could change this year, though Providence Catholic and Loyola Academy are expected to scrap for the league title.
“We lost four guys, but we’ve got our core back,” Vitiritti said. “Last year, we advanced to sectionals, and it would be great to do that again.”