Western Illinois men’s golf coach Lia Biehl Lukkarinen didn’t realize until about three weeks ago that Crystal Lake South’s John Lishchynsky was a senior, not a junior.
That mistake made all of the difference for Lishchynsky, who quickly got to talking with Lukkarinen and found his next home in Macomb.
Lishchynsky, the 2019 Northwest Herald Boys Golfer of the Year, committed to the NCAA Division-I Leathernecks last week. He was also talking to Illinois Wesleyan and University of St. Thomas Minnesota.
“(Lukkarinen) thought I was a year younger, but she did have me in her sights,” Lishchynsky said. “It wasn’t until my dad filled out another recruiting form she found out I was a senior. I was really proud of myself for what I accomplished this year. It’s the next part of my life, and I’m really excited for it."
With graduation just a few weeks away, Lishchynsky didn’t have much time to make a decision. So when Western Illinois offered, he made a gut decision.
It also helped to have a former Fox Valley Conference opponent and friend already on the team at Western Illinois. Lishchynsky talked to Western Illinois men's golfer Cameron Karney, a 2018 Prairie Ridge graduate, through Instagram messages to get a better feel of the program and school.
Lishchynsky said that he looks forward to working with Lukkarinen to help him be a more consistent player.
“She’s a swing guru, she played on the LPGA Tour, and she’s going to give me a lot of potential,” Lishchynsky said. “It’s definitely a lot to take in. You’ve really got to play for the whole team, an even better team against a lot more competitive players. It’s going to be a new experience for me, a lot different than high school.”
In his final year at South, Lishchynsky made an incredible run through the Class 2A postseason, capturing medalist honors at regionals with a 1-under-par 71 and sectionals with a career-best 3-under 69.
He tied for 15th at state with a 75-77-152, as the Gators took seventh in the team standings. South made back-to-back state appearances in Lishchynsky’s final two years, with the team winning regional and sectional titles in 2019. The sectional championship was South’s first since 1998.
Lishchynsky was also the top golfer in the Fox Valley Conference, finishing with the most points in the end-of-season standings. He was runner-up at the FVC Tournament, two shots behind teammate Will Stewart, as South won back-to-back conference titles.
“What I’ll remember most is coming back after junior year, after struggling, to finish off my career with couple of strong scores and winning a couple of tournaments,” Lishchynsky said. “I’ll definitely remember that, and all of my teammates.”
South graduates three – Lishchynsky, Ethan Wiggs and Jack Roberts – but should be a competitive team in the FVC again, with four juniors returning. They will try to make it three straight FVC titles next season.
“It was definitely a great experience,” Lishchynsky said. “Everyone on the team loved each other and were great sports. They really just pushed you to do your best. They didn’t want to see anybody fail.”