Crystal Lake Central’s first-year golf coach Derek Crabill has taken a long journey to where he finds himself now.
Although admittedly not a great golfer, his affinity for the game sprouted as a high-schooler at Huntley – back when the area was undeveloped. One afternoon, Crabill and a few friends went to a driving range situated near a used car dealership.
Not really knowing what they were doing, the teens couldn’t control where they hit the ball and tee shots would often end with the coach cringing as the balls sailed toward the parking lot. After too many close calls, a golf pro came out to the range and offered them a free lesson.
“It kind of all started there,” he said. “Once I knew what I was doing, I wanted to be better and better and now I love the game.
“It lets my competitiveness out. I don’t even like losing to my 5-year-old in Candy Land.”
Said senior Paul Schlimm of his new coach: “It’s definitely a little different, but I like how he approaches the game and focuses on the mental aspect.
“He didn’t come in here and flip everything around or try to change anything. He lets us do our things that have been working in the past.”
Crabill understands that mental approach is important in all sports.
The Huntley native played college basketball for four years at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, before coaching the JV squad during his fifth year, while finishing his degree.
Afterward, he followed an umpiring dream as he called games in the minor leagues for several years.
“It was a lot of fun, and we would golf all the time,” Crabill recalled of his umpiring days. “On the road, we always brought our clubs and p’ayed on various courses.
“It’s crazy, because golf something you can have fun doing even while being frustrated all day.”
It is that mentality that he tries to float down toward his golfers. He likes to say that sports often puts people in tough situations where the pressure may be magnified because of the nature of the games and attention they receive, “but pressure is everywhere and the way you handle yourself during those situations will be a tool you will use the rest of you life.”
“It’s a good thing to know how to control,” Schlimm said referring to pressure. “He’s helped with that.”
He has inherited a strong Tigers team that has a shot at contending for the Fox Valley Conference Fox title with golfers like Schlimm and Jordan Schoenfeld, Brad Mugler and Josh Dingle leading the way.
Elsewhere, Prairie Ridge introduces a new varsity coach in John Powell, who previously coached at the JV level. Powell took over the varsity job after switching with John Pellikan who will coach JV this season. The golfers have already taken a liking to Powell and his knowledge of the game has provided a smooth transition.
Junior Ben Harvel played under Powell during his first two seasons on JV and is excited his coach made the jump to varsity with him.
“He’s really easy to talk to and he can make you better,” Harvel said. “He has a good approach to the game and he is starting to rub off on everyone.”
Young players such as standout freshman Ethan Farnam have also taken a liking to Powell and said he has learned a lot from him. Farnam is one of the top golfers on the team despite being just 14 years old.
“Ethan is someone who we kind of kept an eye on,” Powell said. “We knew he has tremendous talent from what he has done in tournaments and we’re really excited about where he can end up.”