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NSC champion Bay golfers work hard on the course and in the classroom

Homestead's Hitt individual medalist

Sept. 27, 2013

Earlier in the season, the notoriously studious Whitefish Bay girls golf team stopped in at an area McDonald's for some 49 cent ice cream cones after winning a North Shore Conference mini-meet.

However, the high-achieving Blue Dukes, who are basically the same team that claimed academic All-American honors last fall, couldn't afford such a luxury again, even after a spectacular season-best 18-hole score of 338 clinched them the overall North Shore Conference title at Mee-Kwon on Sept. 25.

"Oh no," junior team leader Robinson Creighton said. "Most of us are struggling with AP (advanced placement) classes, so we usually go home to five hours of homework. Golf is definitely our break.

"It's like coach Frank (Donadio) says: 'Family first, school second, golf third and boyfriends fourth (laughs).'"

Reportedly, only one of Bay's starting five has a boyfriend at this point and Donadio understands why.

Focus is on homework

"I asked them on the way home, aren't you happy you won a conference title," he said, "and they just said, 'We just have so much homework to do.'"

That's the price you pay at the academically gifted, award-winning Whitefish Bay High School.

But honestly, the junior Creighton is very happy for the team and what it has achieved. She entered Bay a few years after the Blue Dukes had qualified for the WIAA State Tournament for the only time as a co-op with Shorewood in 2007.

"And basically, we had no team," she said. "We had lost all the good seniors. We weren't a good team back then, but we all progressed together."

To a great degree, as the Blue Dukes' total was well ahead of two-time defending state champion Homestead with its 361. The Highlanders' Anika Hitt completed an end-to-end run for the individual league championship with an impressive score of 72.

"We had our lowest team score of the year but we still have a ways to go," Highlanders coach John Krueger said. "It is a good time of the season to be lowering our scores....I'm proud of the girls to improve to where we are right now."

He said Hitt was very solid in recording her score and got help from Kelly Kasper with a 90, Bella Barbiere with a 95, Kathleen Cullen (94) and Katie Gebhardt (107).

For Bay, it was a balanced team effort, as both Creighton and Caroline Matkom came in with scores of 81 apiece, while Grace Wirth carded an 87, Clare Matkom an 89 and Annie Letizia a 90.

Practice eases nerves

Donadio said that a solid practice nine-hole round on Mee-kwon shortly before the 18-hole finale on Sept. 25 gave the Blue Dukes a great deal of confidence.

"We turned in a 169, which is exactly half of 338," he said. "...We shot three scores of 42 and a score of 43. We've been balanced all year. Clare (Matkom) had separated herself earlier in the year, but then everyone closed up to within two or three shots of one another.

"Everyone took a turn being the highest or the lowest. That's the enjoyable thing about this team. No one's a star, everyone supports one another and everyone counts."

Both Creighton and Caroline Matkom earned first-team all-league honors while the other three were second-team. Letizia is the only senior in the group.

"This does feel great," Creighton said. "Our first time winning anything. I think in the last few years we've gone from fourth to first."

The groundwork for the success was laid in the summer as Robinson played in junior tournaments based out of Milwaukee Country Club and the Matkoms played the Milwaukee County summer circuit of tournaments.

"We also all play with our dads," Creighton said with a laugh.

Creighton said the team was ready on the day of the finale.

"We were excited," she said. "We had had a scare (with a close North Shore mini-meet) the previous week and coach Frank said 'Don't make me so nervous.'"

But then Creighton said it was Donadio who calmed the team's fears going into the event.

Easing up

"He's a very nice coach," she said "When we're stressed in school, he gives us time off because he knows if we're too stressed we don't play well."

Donadio is happy to make things work.

"This was fun," he said. "We all respect Homestead. They are the defending state champions, and (coach) John (Krueger) handled this with a lot of class. We were just fortunate to hang in there enough to win the meet."

When it's all said and done though, what does the coach think about all that schoolwork his team does?

"My favorite quote of the season for them is that they like to study and they take courses I can't even spell," Donadio said. "Maybe, just maybe, I could help them a little in Spanish (laughs)."

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