When Larisa Luloff decided she wanted to play golf seriously, she sought an outlet to prepare for her high school season.
“I needed to start doing tournaments,” said Luloff, who will be a junior at Cary-Grove in the fall.
On the cusp of Luloff’s freshman year, her coach suggested she join the McHenry County Junior Golf Association. Once she did, she took full advantage of the league.
“I basically did every tournament they had,” she said, “[and] it [helped] a lot.”
The MCJGA has provided competition for young golfers like Luloff since its inception in 2001. The experience its participants receive is crucial to their high school careers, according to tournament director Mike Haase.
“When we’re playing an away match, I might only see that golf course just that one time,” said Haase, who golfed in McHenry County when he was in high school. “[With MCJGA], we play pretty darn close to every golf course in McHenry County.”
Local players agree that the experience is crucial, and the MCJGA now boasts about 200 members a season. Haase, who has consequently expanded the schedule from its three original tournaments to 15, attributes the league’s success to a variety of reasons.
“Having tournaments a little closer to home makes it easier for players and the parents driving them,” he said. “Cost is also a factor; our price is half of what you normally pay for other organizations.”
MCJGA’s first summer tournament of the year comes Wednesday in the GCI Open hosted by the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin. Robert Lemke, the club’s manager, agrees with Haase.
“It’s like a junior touring competition,” Lemke said. “It’s a great tournament for juniors to keep their game in motion.”
This year’s GCI Open, which features 71 golfers in junior and senior divisions for boys and girls, will be Luloff’s third. She enters the larger and more competitive Senior Division with a confidence backed by her victory in last year’s Junior Division and her commanding finish as the 2012 MCJGA Girls Junior Division Player of the Year.
The Girls Senior Division in the GCI Open features nine golfers as opposed to six in the Junior Division. Although the boys divisions trump those of the girls in size, Luloff thinks young golfers of either gender will have something to take away from MCJGA tournaments – especially those who are in the same spot she was three years ago.
“Girls or guys who are going to be freshmen this year should definitely [join MCJGA],” Luloff said. “I see some of my teammates who don’t do it, and they’re kind of starting over again in the fall.
“It’s a good way to get started, [and] it keeps you going.”