Jeannie Ellis takes over as Alpena High girls golf coach

Jeannie Ellis

The Alpena High girls golf program has made steady progress since it was revived in 2015.

Faced the with the possibility of not having a team this fall, Jeannie Ellis wanted to make sure the Wildcats had a chance to keep growing.

Ellis will take on the task of leading Alpena after she was announced as the school’s new varsity girls golf coach last week. She succeeds Mike Nunneley who helped revive the program in 2015 and coached the team for three seasons.

“We were faced with the possibility of not having a team this season. I’m doing the mom thing and taking one for the team,” Ellis said.

Ellis golfed recreationally years ago, but was reintroduced in a way to the sport last season when her daughter Kennedy joined the team as a freshman.

“My daughter joined the team last year and fell in love with golf. She had never played golf at all,” Ellis said. “I learned more from watching my daughter than I ever did as a player.”

Since the program returned in 2015 after a two-year hiatus, Alpena has found success in girls golf as a team and individually. Lizzy Heath made the Division 2 state finals in 2016 and went on to play golf at Spring Arbor University.

This past season, Courtney Nunneley won a Division 2 regional title before going on to compete in the finals. She will begin her collegiate golf career at Saginaw Valley State University this fall.

Last season, the Wildcats finished fourth at the Big North Conference championship and had two golfers earned all-conference honors.

“Coach Mike did an exceptional job leading the program,” Ellis said. “I’m really trying to emulate what coach Mike did in his time as coach. His philosophy was, if you want to play, we’re going to get you to play.”

As a spectator last season, Ellis was amazed by the show of support she saw among high school girls golfers.

That inspired Ellis to step up in Alpena’s time of need.

“As a parent I went to tournaments and I watched every single team, every single coach, every single player (and how) they support every single girl,” Ellis said. “The confidence these girls get is so positive and uplifting.”

The upcoming season figures to be a rebuilding year for the Wildcats, who return just three golfers. Brynna Smith returns as Alpena’s senior captain and Kennedy Ellis and Gwen Kollian both return as sophomores.

On the flip side, the Wildcats hope to add at least half a dozen newcomers and have enough golfers to field a JV team in addition to the varsity squad.

Ellis is hosting an open tryout from 5-6 p.m. tonight in the small commons at Alpena High School.

Taking on the responsibility of coaching is new territory for Ellis, but she’s encouraged by the support the local community has given Alpena’s golf program.

“I don’t think it will be that bad. It’s a huge time commitment, but there’s lots of support,” Ellis said. “(River’s Edge golf professional) Jerry McConnell has been fabulous and is always available to help the girls and (former coach) Vicky Lindsay has offered to help with practices, so it’s very encouraging.”

Alpena’s season will begin later this month and the Wildcats are scheduled to host a home meet at River’s Edge Golf Club at the end of the month.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.