CALCUTTA-Getting a new high school sports program off the ground is no small undertaking but it's a challenge that Beaver Local girls golf coach Ed Kurylak is trying his best to meet.
This fall, Kurylak-a longtime Beaver Local teacher and former boys golf coach-will head up the first girls golf team in school history.
"I think this is an extremely worthwhile venture and a great opportunity for Beaver Local," Kurylak said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of building up the program in the years to come."
For the time being, the team is built around four core players: senior Emily Blaner, senior Hannah Edwards, junior Taylor Plunkett, and freshman Lauren Owens. While the Beavers have enough for a full squad this year, Kurylak knows that the long-term viability of the program depends on getting more girls involved, particularly at a younger age. Since the team was launched he has found getting a large turnout to be a challenge.
"It's tough when you have to compete with soccer and volleyball, sports that have been around longer at Beaver Local," Kurylak said. "I'm confident that the girls golf program will stick around for years to come, but getting interest from kids at the 7th and 8th grade level is huge."
One feature the Kurylak hopes will attract new members is the construction of an indoor practice facility at Turkana Golf Course-the Beavers' home course. The indoor facility, built with private funding, is strictly for the girls golf team and includes a practice green along with video equipment for players to analyze their swings.
"If a kid is dedicated enough to getting good, we have everything that is necessary in place to reward that dedication," Kurylak said. "If a girl is good enough, there are ample college scholarship opportunities out there. That part has me really excited about starting this program."
Though Kurylak will be the one in charge of the team he credits Mike Blaner, the father of Emily Blaner, with getting the ball rolling.
"Without Mike Blaner, we would not have a girls golf team," Kurylak said. "He's the one who kept pushing the idea until it became a reality."
Emily Blaner, a two-time district qualifier who previously played on the boys team, will headline the Beavers this fall. The team will play an 18-match schedule with six of those matches staged at Turkana.
"Until now, I never really noticed how big girls golf was in northeast Ohio, but it's very competitive," Blaner said. "Poland and Claymont are both on our schedule and they've each enjoyed a lot of tournament success over the years."
While the Beavers may just be getting started, Kurylak envisions a day when they can compete with more established programs.
"It takes community support to help build a program," Kurylak said. "From Turkana and Beaver Meadows who give us a place to play and practice to those who paid for the indoor facility, we have a lot of people who want to see the program succeed. Now it's just a matter of getting enough students interest."
For more information on Beaver Local girls golf, call Mike Blaner at (330) 383-1485 or Ed Kurylak at (330) 303-5792.