The season for the Ottawa boys golfers has come to an end, and there's nothing they can do about it.
With the teachers' strike at Ottawa Township High School now in its seventh day, the work stoppage is starting to take a major toll on the Pirates' athletics.
Ottawa had to forfeit last Friday night's football game against rival La Salle-Peru, and Monday night, Ottawa head boys golf coach Dave Wultzen had to make one of the most difficult phone calls that he can remember.
"Last night I did one of the toughest things that I have ever done in my 30 years of coaching," Wultzen said. "I had to call up my seniors and tell them just how sorry I was because their season was over. It was emotional. It really was."
Today, at Senica's Oak Ridge Golf Course in La Salle, the Pirates were supposed to have been competing in the Class 2A La Salle-Peru Golf Regional.
Because of IHSA's strike policy, that will not happen, and the Pirates' season is officially over.
According to the IHSA Administrative Procedures, Guidelines and Policies handbook on its Web site, "If a school is on strike and not in legal session, as defined by the State Board of Education, on the date of the beginning competition in any IHSA state series, students from that school may not participate in the state series."
That means since the strike started last week before regionals started, the Pirates, who rebounded from a tough 1-4 dual start to the season to play much better recently, are out of luck as golf began early this morning.
The only way the Ottawa golfers could have avoided missing the postseason was if the teachers would have started the strike after golf postseason had already begun. Then, the Pirate golfers could have still competed even though school was not in session, according to IHSA rules.
"My heart just feels terrible for those kids," Wultzen said. "These seniors will never have an opportunity to play high school golf again."
When Wultzen had to call his seniors, he heard some common responses.
"Frustration, disappointment, but mostly silence," Wultzen said. "We've talked a lot. We had a meeting before this all happened. I kind of explained everything and kind of gave them an outline as to what would happen if the worst-case scenario, which obviously happened, occurred. They were prepared for it, but just like the whole situation, we just thought it was a nightmare, a bad dream that was never going to happen, and it did."
One golfer in particular close to Wultzen's heart is senior Eric Farrell, who was set up to have a very strong end to his season.
Farrell works at Senica's Oak Ridge Golf Course, and three of Ottawa's biggest meets at the end of the season were to be on a course he knew very well.
The Pirates were scheduled to play the NCIC Reagan Division meet at Oak Ridge on Thursday, the La Salle-Peru Invitational on Saturday and the Class 2A La Salle-Peru Regional today.
Ottawa ended up missing all of those meets where Farrell could have put up some good scores in his final campaign.
"When we got our schedules, we had looked forward and we knew that the NCIC tournament was at Oak Ridge, we knew the L-P Invite was at Oak Ridge and we knew the regional was at Oak Ridge, and we thought, â€˜Wow, this couldn't be set up any better,' " Wultzen said. "They guys were just playing so well. They turned it around and just put together a fine season."
Especially Farrell, who was the lone returning starter from a very talented 2008 team that sent two golfers, Broc Kinney and Tyler Bernadoni, to state.
The call to Farrell was the most emotional one for Wultzen on Monday night.
"Eric Farrel was my lone returning starter, basically," Wultzen said. "I've known Eric since he's been a little kid, and I'm friends with his parents. I relied on him for his senior leadership this year. He gave it to me. I have to admit, that was the toughest phone call I had to make last night, was talking to Eric. I am getting emotional again. I told him, â€˜I'm so sorry your senior season is over, and there's nothing I can do about it.' "
Another season that could come to an end this week is that of Ottawa junior Ali Stevenson.
Girls golf regionals begin Wednesday, and Stevenson, a sectional qualifier a year ago, is scheduled to go to the Class 2A Geneseo Regional at Maple Bluff Golf Course in Geneseo.
That more than likely will not happen.
In other sports: Ottawa girls tennis forfeited its match with DeKalb on Monday night, and Dixon at Ottawa volleyball, Ottawa at Sterling girls tennis, Ottawa at Sterling boys soccer and Ottawa's quadrangular cross country meet at Hall will be victims of the strike today.
Friday night's football game against Morris is also in jeopardy. Ottawa needs to be back in school by Wednesday in order to play the game Saturday.
IHSA's strike policy requires that a school must have three separate days of practice before competing in a football game if a team has not practiced for seven consecutive days, excluding Sundays.
Wednesday would be the seventh day in a row without practice for the Pirates.
Jim Cogdal can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at email@example.com.