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Former NIU golfer takes over at North

Irish Whalen was a late-bloomer in golf, only taking up the sport her final two years in high school after an injury forced her out of her original fall sport, volleyball.

By her senior year, Whalen was the top golfer on her co-ed team at River Ridge High School in northwestern Illinois, and on her way to a college golf career at Northern Illinois University.

Recently appointed St. Charles North's new girls golf coach, Whalen will do her best to help North's golfers progress just as quickly.

Whalen, though, knows golf can be an exasperating sport, and said helping golfers learn from some of their rough shots – and rounds – will be a focal point.

"I didn't start competing really until I was 15, 16, so I had some of those same growing experiences [during college] because I hadn't competed as much as my teammates, so those 1-on-1 conversations you have through rounds really help you grow," Whalen said.

Whalen said she found out last month she would replace former North coach Chris Patrick, a teaching colleague of Whalen's at Wredling Middle School.

"He had indicated to me that he was going to step away from it and he thought I'd be a good fit for the program and with the girls so that kind of triggered my interest in the position," Whalen said.

Whalen is entering her sixth year as a teacher at Wredling and spent the past five years as a lower-level coach in St. Charles East's girls golf program. Whalen also spent a year coaching girls and boys golf at Sterling High School in 2008-09.

Whalen, an Arlington Heights resident, golfed at NIU in the early 2000s, and said former Huskies coach Pam Tyska and her father, Bill Whalen, are her greatest golf influences.

Her first North Stars team seems poised to keep the program's successful tradition intact as Gianna Furrie and Kate Lillie are both coming off dynamite freshman seasons. Whalen met the team earlier this month and will preside over tryouts beginning Aug. 13.

Three of the four Tri-Cities girls golf coaches are new to their positions this fall, as Batavia (Tim Kauffmann) and Geneva (Doug Ross) also have shuffled their girls golf coaching staffs.

It remains to be seen which of the new coaches will thrive the most, but Whalen certainly owns the most memorable first name of the bunch. She said "Irish" came about to honor the heritage of her father's side of the family.

"I can't imagine it any other way," Whalen said.

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