By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Two members of head coach Gretchen Gabler’s girls’ golf program, freshman Keira Billis and senior Janelle Grech, were named to the All-Oakland Activities Association (OAA) White Division team on November 3.
Consistently two of the program’s top scorers throughout the season, their selections represent the nice variety present on the roster.
One of the team’s co-captains, Grech was one of three seniors at the varsity level, joining Kate Dietiker and Eryn Petriko, the other co-captain.
The Class of 2024, current ninth graders, were even more represented, with a quartet of girls scoring points for the Wildcats. Billis was accompanied by Ellie Gieselman, Gabi Wait and Lexie Yankee.
“It wasn’t really a goal at the start of the season, I just wanted to improve my personal score, and this came with it, which is really nice,” Grech, a three-year varsity player, said of the selection, which was her first.
A large part of the program’s growth over the last few years, Grech, who is also the drum major of the marching band, spoke very highly of the impact Gabler has had on her game throughout her time at Oxford High School.
“Oh, my goodness, such a big impact,” she began. “She’s one of the reasons I continued to stay committed throughout the year because she constantly encouraged me. Even if I was down on myself, she knew, no matter what, anyone could have potential to be better, which is why I made it to where I was.”
Still in the process of deciding where she wants to continue her academic endeavors next year, Grech could keep golfing at the collegiate level, if she chooses, thanks to a former Wildcat.
“I would love to keep golfing at the collegiate level, but it just depends where I want my academics to be,” she shared.
“I am looking into an offer from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which is run by one of our past golf team members, Beth Hubbard, so, I might go there and play on her team, which would be really nice.”
Hubbard, a 2005 Oxford High School graduate, was named the head coach of the Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans on June 11. When speaking to The Leader shortly after accepting the position, she said she planned to recruit the state of Michigan and is already following through on that.
Grech also took a moment to identify one of her favorite moments from the past season, where the Wildcats finished in third-place in the OAA White, and, speaking to the quality young woman she is, her highlight focused not only on her success, but the team’s, as well.
“One of my favorite moments was coming back from one of our OAA Tournaments, I believe it was the second OAA Tournament, and it was where I shot my personal best,” she recalled. “I came back to the rest of the team and was able to share that with them, and I learned a lot of the team also shot their personal best.
“I believe that’s the day we also broke a school record on top of that, so we were all just so excited.”
Grech’s memory is accurate, in the second OAA White Meet of the campaign, which was held at The Links at Crystal Lake on September 24, the Wildcats’ foursome of Billis, Gieselman, Grech and Petriko carded a 345, breaking a 10-year-old program record by a single stroke.
Fittingly, Grech led the way that day with an 80.
Still possessing three more years of high school eligibility, Billis is a three-sport athlete, also planning to play basketball for Oxford this winter and competing in soccer outside of the school.
One of the top players in her class in Oakland County, Billis, despite her youth, has extensive experience with the game of golf.
“I’ve been playing since a really young age,” she shared. “My grandparents play, my parents play, my brother, so it just runs in the family.”
Golf is one of the greatest individual challenges and tests of mental toughness, and Billis, looking to hit the ground running, had her eyes on an All-OAA selection before the season even began.
“It was a goal, I knew it would be a tough one, but I was hoping to get it,” she said. “Coach let me know (when I received the honor), and I was super excited, it was really cool.”
Like Grech, Billis’ favorite moment from the season was team-centric.
“I really enjoyed playing at Twin Lakes with our whole team together,” she stated. “It was just a really fun experience and we all had a really good time.”
Billis is referring to the Troy Colts Invite on August 27, where, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), each school’s girls golfed together in foursomes, instead of being paired with golfers from another team, providing them with a lasting memory in the process.
Set to set into more of a leadership role next fall as one of the program’s top returning players, Billis is looking forward to continuing to improve with her classmates.
“I think we (have) a lot of strong, young kids and I’m really excited to see how we grow.”
Gabler, who has overseen the growth of these players, directed some of the praise to junior varsity head coach Tony Frias.
“He has been a fantastic addition to the program,” she said. “He is able to really work with the new golfers, help them develop, and is a big reason why we will have continued success.”
2020 was a step in the right direction for Oxford’s girls’ golf program and, based on the talent returning and consistent messaging from the coaching staff, 2021 has the potential to be even better.