Nearly a decade ago, Doug Kell took over as Head Coach for the Nashville Hornette Golf Team. In his first three seasons, he became very familiar with the drive up to Red Tail Run Golf Course in Decatur for the IHSA State Tournament. His first season was in 2010, and his team took home third place. His second season, the team fell short of a title by one stroke, but were still able to take home second place, respectively. In his third season, his group collected fourth place. Heading into his fourth season at the helm and three state appearances, only one thing eluded him; a State Championship. In 2013, the team was able to get over the hump and secure the Class 2A State Crown.
“Those first four years were some of the best times,” Kell recalled. Shawn Rennegarbe, who was going into her senior year, also reflected on the close calls in the prior years. “We had a lot of chances previously that were very disappointing because we came so close to winning and couldn’t pull it off,” Rennegarbe said.
The primary scorers were Rennegarbe, Madi May (Rueter), Jessica Weihe (Engele), Natalie Johnson, and Madison Frerker. Coach Kell recalled a particular instance with Johnson, one of the team’s top scorers.
“Natalie had never played golf before her freshman year, and Coach Guest saw her hitting golf balls and sent her my way, that was huge,” Kell said.
Taylor Prange, as well as Sara and Jill Guetersloh, spent time as the team’s sixth player. A group which was made up primarily of experienced upperclassmen, Prange reflected on her role as a freshman contributor.
“I was nervous as heck going into state as a freshman, but the older girls took me in and taught me a lot. It was such a fun weekend, I’m forever thankful coach pushed me that season so I could have that experience,” Prange said.
The team was able to compile an undefeated regular season.
“We were beating teams in dominant fashion,” Kell said. Prior to the start of the regular season, Kell noted they did as much as they could to bolster their schedule.
During the course of the regular season, the Hornets participated in the Gary Bair Invitational in Edwardsville, as well as other tournaments throughout Illinois. In the Gary Bair Invitational, the group finished with a team score of 305.
“In golf, 380 is good, and we shot a 305,” Kell said. Rennegarbe managed to break the course record, finishing with a 64. The round consisted of two eagles, four birdies and only one bogey for Rennegarbe. The group was also able to break the school record for fewest strokes in match at The Orchards in Belleville with a 149. Out of all of the Hornettes who scored, everybody kept it in the thirty range. Rennegarbe finished with a 34, Johnson with a 37, and May and Weihe both tallied 39s. The team won the match by a convincing 40 strokes. That season, the team participated in the Mt. Carmel Regional and the Effingham Sectional. Although the team went into the postseason with an undefeated record, they were hit with adversity right away. The team was tasked with competing in the Mt. Carmel Regional.
“It was a long trip. I think there were like two or three Regionals around here, and we had to go all the way to Mt. Carmel and spend the night” Kell recalled. Moving ahead to the Effingham Sectional, Kell recalled an instance which stood out to him.
“I can’t talk about that Sectional without talking about this. ” said Kell. Going into the final hole of the day, Rennegarbe was two strokes off of the lead. The player she was chasing was in the same group as her. On a par four, Rennegarbe was able to drive the green, make an eagle putt and force a one hole playoff. On the same hole, she was able to repeat her drive to the green. Although -e was able to finish with a birdie which enabled her to win first overall in the sectional.
“At the time I had a flip phone, but I still was able to record. I still don’t know why I didn’t record that so we could’ve had it for forever,” said Kell.
Heading into state, Kell noted the team was not feeling any added pressure due to coming up short in the years before.
“If they were nervous, they weren’t showing it. They were still a bunch of goofballs,” said Kell.
As mentioned before, the group had missed out on opportunities in the prior three years by just a few strokes. The 2013 team made up for lost time in a big way. After the first day, the team was winning by an impressive 11 strokes. The disappointment of the previous three seasons was erased the following day as the Hornettes were crowned State Champions. They were able to win by 19 strokes. Frerker displayed the depth of the team, as she finished fourth place overall both days.
“Madison had a big weekend,” Kell said.
The success is no surprise for Frerker, as she recalled her love for Red Tail Run Golf Course.
“Red Tail Run is by far my most favorite course we played at. The adrenaline I felt at state was exhilarating, and I always played some of my best rounds up there,” Frerker said.
When looking back on every successful team who have walked the halls at Nashville Community High School, although every team is different in their own way, one thing remains the same; continuity.
“One of my biggest takeaways was the team dynamic. We knew how to have fun, but also knew when it was time to focus. We could be in the middle of practice and have to stop everything because someone would start laughing out of nowhere, including the coaches. We had so much fun everyday. The environment was always so comfortable and supportive. We weren’t just a team, we were a family,” Rueter said.
Frerker echoed those comments and even recalled an instance where the team found an old CD full of rap music and would listen to it on road trips.
“We would sing and dance and laugh hysterically,” Frerker said.
She even recalled playing “We Are The Champions” as the team was welcomed home during their parade.
Another key part of the success was the aforementioned depth the team possessed. “The biggest key is to have a very well rounded team. There are always a lot of teams
out there with one good player, but that only gets you so far. We were lucky to have a whole team who really enjoyed the game. Golf is very individualized, so the biggest key is keeping everyone interested,” said Rennegarbe.
Not only was it the group’s first state title in four years, it also allowed them to take a long awaited sigh of relief.
“It was a huge relief,” said Kell. “As a coach, I’m happy, but I’m more happy for them,” Kell said.
Although Coach Kell sings high praises for his champs, the feeling of respect is just as high from a player standpoint.
“Coach Kell was great to work with. He’d drive up to check on us with a big grin on his face,” Frerker said.
Coach Doug Kell was also assisted by Dawn Hawkins.
“I worked with the best Assistant Coach ever, he made my job a lot easier,” Kell recalled.