Yorkville's Cole Yearsley, other players trade in their football pads for golf clubs

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Cole Yearsley planned to return to football this fall.

Yearsley, a Yorkville senior, gave up football the last two years to focus on baseball. He also plays basketball. But it was heartbreaking for Yearsley to sit in the stands fall Fridays. He told his mom that he had to play this fall, and she gave her blessing.

Well, plans changed.

With the IHSA postponing football, boys soccer and girls volleyball to spring 2021, Yearsley is one of several area athletes trading in their football pads for golf clubs this fall.

It might not have the energy of the Friday night lights, but golf still has Yearsley's competitive juices flowing.

"It doesn't matter what sport I'm in, I'm going to compete," said Yearsley, who previously played some golf when he had free time. "I could be good at it, I could be bad at it. I'm going to compete. It's been fun, a great experience to go around and play these amazing courses and meet new people."

When football was postponed to the spring on July 29, Yearsley started taking golf more serious. He first picked up a golf club this summer in late July, but got in 4-5 rounds before tryouts. Surprisingly to him, he made the team.

"I took advantage of the opportunity and now I'm one of the conference players," Yearsley said. "After tryouts I asked coach if I could hit a couple buckets of range balls and he told me he loves the competitiveness. I will fight for every competition, I don't want to get benched."

At Sandwich, Sawyer Allen and Jake Heilemeier have taken up golf with football on the shelf. Dylan Johnson, who usually plays fall baseball, is also on the golf team. A fourth Sandwich player, Noah Klossing, is a senior who played soccer throughout high school until now.

"He has a natural ability for golf," Sandwich coach Mike Butler said of Klossing. "I really wish I could have had him all four years."

Allen, a lineman in football, had limited golfing experience up until now. But he did get a first-hand look at the game working maintenance at Edgebrook Golf Club this summer.

He's friends with some of the guys on the golf team, and told them he'd join if fall football was canceled.

With money saved up from work, he bought a new set of clubs.

"It's something you can have fun at, even if you're not good at it," Allen said. "When you're with your friends and in practice it's laid back but then you get into competition it's super serious."

Tony Licea, the leading rusher on Plano's football team last fall, had been to a golf range a few times with friends but never set foot on a golf course until this month.

When football was postponed, Plano football coach Rick Ponx texted Licea and said he could be OK at golf. Now Licea goes to the gym in mornings to lift in preparation for football, with afternoons scheduled around golf.

He started off rough, shooting a 75 over nine holes, but has since posted a 59. Licea is one of a few football Reapers trying their hand at golf.

Asked what his reaction would be if someone told him in March he'd be playing golf in August, Licea laughed.

"Not a chance," Licea sad. "My friends and my family at first were like, 'You're really on the golf team?'"

Licea, though, has had a blast.

"We all think it's fun, it's enjoyable, it's relaxing," said Licea, who bought a set of clubs a few days before practice. "It's something none of us had thought we would do, something different for sure."

Yearsley said he thinks golfers sometimes get a bad rap as athletes, but called the skills he's witnessed up closing amazing.

Stepping on the Blackberry Oaks Golf Course this month for the first time in five years, Yearsley watched in awe as guys like Jonathan and Ryan Waugh put on a show from the range.

"To play with these guys, especially the Waugh brothers, they're unreal," Yearsley said. "First day of practice I show up and these guys are hitting all these shots and I'm thinking how in the world do they do that. Ryan was teaching me how to do them. It's cool to step in their world and be a part of a team, it's special."

Special, but it's humbling for Yearsley, who is known for a sweet left-handed swing in the baseball box. He hit .396 in his only varsity baseball season as a sophomore, but swinging from the tee box is a whole different story.

"Going into the new sport I had to adjust baseball swing wise," Yearsley said. "It's a hard transition to be consistent and I'm still working on it. Figuring out the driver, it would drive 200 yards left, farther left than straight but it's a fun learning experience."

Yearsley plans to make the most of his senior year experience.

He had his junior baseball season taken away because of the pandemic, but this school year he hopes to play four sports.

He hasn't touched a baseball bat in the two weeks since golf started, taking a break to clear his mind, but is still running routes and taking a few safety reps with the football guys.

"If they have all of the sports, I'm doing them," Yearsley said. "My spring was my break. I have no break this year, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."