Green Bay Notre Dame senior Conner O'Neil is Press-Gazette Media's boys golfer of the year. This image has a circular vignette created by using a wide-angle lens on a camera with a larger sensor than the lens was designed for. / Kyle Bursaw/ Press-Gazette Media
Conner O’Neil is in his comfort zone on a golf course.
But the Green Bay Notre Dame senior didn’t always show it.
“Conner as a freshman was almost invisible,” Notre Dame coach Brian Bobinski said. “He was just so quiet and so reserved from a golf perspective and a personality perspective.
“He was our alternate at the state tournament when he was a sophomore. For whatever reason, on that trip, it just clicked. It was almost like you snapped your fingers because you could see him open up and his personality came out.”
Preble softball ace Anna Conard is player of the year
O’Neil became one of the best golfers in school history.
After tying a program record with a 3-under-par 69 at an invite last year, O’Neil finished his high school career by carding a par 72 for the best state round in program history to power Notre Dame to a WIAA Division 1 state runner-up finish.
The Fox River Classic Conference player of the year placed eighth as an individual at the D1 state tournament with a two-day 149, which is the second-best score in school history.
For his efforts, O’Neil is Press-Gazette Media’s boys golfer of the year.
“It’s huge to be able to play well when you need to,” said O’Neil, who who earned third-team all-state honors from the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin. “I feel like I played well enough to give my team a chance to win state and that’s all I could hope for.”
O’Neil’s nine-hole average of 38.72 this season is the fourth best in school history. It includes a 37.83 average in FRCC play to help the Tritons repeat as conference champions.
The Illinois Wesleyan University recruit had only two 18-hole rounds in which he shot over 80. O’Neil’s 72 on the second day of the state tournament was his best score of the season.
“I was very satisfied with my play,” said O’Neil, who placed third in D2 at state last year. “I didn’t put up a ton of low scores like I was hoping to. But I was consistently shooting in the mid to upper 70s, which was a big help to the team.”
Bobinski said O’Neil’s calming demeanor was just as important as his scores in helping Notre Dame make its 11th straight WIAA state appearance. It was the Tritons’ first in D1 after previously playing in D2.
“The positive influence he is for those younger kids is what is really special about him,” Bobinski said.
“There is nobody that I can think of that made as big a jump and became as good as Conner did. It’s just been so cool to see him grow, both as a player and a person, over his time in our program.”
ALL-AREA BOYS GOLF
First teamJohn Fridland, sr., De Pere: Earned first-team all-Fox River Classic Conference honors after posting a 40.0 nine-hole average. He advanced to WIAA Division 1 sectionals as an individual qualifier.
Owen Nowicki, sr., Pulaski: The first-team all-FRCC player had 38.0 nine-hole average in conference play. An honorable-mention all-state choice, Nowicki helped the Red Raiders win a WIAA Division 1 regional title for a second straight season by finishing as the meet medalist.
Conner O’Neil, sr., G.B. Notre Dame: The FRCC player of the year earned third-team all-state honors for a second straight season. He placed eighth at the D1 state tournament by carding a 149, including a 72 on the second day for the best round at state in school history.
Robert Petitjean, so., G.B. Notre Dame: An honorable-mention all-state choice, Petitjean had a 39.57 nine-hole average in FRCC play to earn first-team all-conference honors. He had two of the four lowest rounds in school history, including tying a program record with a 69 at Whistling Straights’ Irish Course to win the Sheboygan Invite.
Andy Swanson, sr., Marinette: The first-team all-Bay Conference player had a nine-hole average of 39.7 during postseason play, including a 12th-place finish in Division 2. He helped the Marines win conference, regional and sectional titles.
Coach of the year: Brian Bobinski, G.B. Notre Dame
The Tritons finished as state runners-up and were one stroke behind state-champion Homestead in their first season playing in Division 1. Notre Dame won 11 of the 18 events it played in and posted the second-best match average in school history.
Second teamBraden Mueller, jr., Shawano; Jack Ritchay, jr., G.B. Notre Dame; Zach VanDeYacht, sr., De Pere; Ben Wagner, sr., G.B. Notre Dame; Luke Welsing, sr., Bay Port.
Honorable mentionSam Belland, jr., Crandon; Craig Block, sr., Wrightstown; James Block, sr., Wrightstown; Casey Boyle, sr., Marinette St. Thomas; Ethan Diestler, so., G.B. Notre Dame; Ian Lewis, sr., Shawano; Michael Schmidt, sr., Marinette St. Thomas; Andrew Stieber, jr., G.B. Southwest; Garrett Waloway, so., Marinette; Brady Weber, jr., Crandon ; Larry Woldt, jr., Sturgeon Bay.