The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 20, 2012

‘The Guru’ has established winning tradition

By VINCE PELUSO — vpeluso@starbeacon.com
Staff Writer

— For those in tune with the girls golf scene in Ohio, it’s difficult to look back six years and imagine that a day where there was no Geneva Eagles girls golf team.

For the past two seasons, the Eagles have advanced to the district tournament and been represented individually at the state tournament.

Three years ago, they were within strokes of advancing to districts, which in golf is the equivalent of reaching regionals.

While he likely wouldn’t take much credit for it, during his five years in charge of the program, Geneva coach Rob DiPofi — or “The Guru,” as he was dubbed by the late, great Karl Pearson — has built one of the most stable programs in the area and for the second-consecutive year is the Star Beacon’s Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.

Geneva wasn’t able to match last year’s undefeated record, but still went 22-3, won the PAC, qualified for the Division I district tournament, where it came just seven shots away from reaching the state tournament.

“To think you’re going to go undefeated every year is a little foolish,” DiPofi said. “We were still 22-3, won the league again and qualified for districts as a team, despite absorbing the loss of three good players and kids from last year’s team.”

While some from the outside looking in, might see the Eagles as simply Danielle Nicholson and four other players, DiPofi disagrees.

His argument is supported by the fact that his team wasn’t hurt by graduation last season.

“I’d like to think people think we’re more than just Danielle,” he said. “I’ve said it before, she’s obviously, the catalyst for it, but the other girls are active participants and take pride in what they’re doing. Hopefully they’re not forgotten in what they’re able to achieve.”

The Geneva program has come a long way in the past five years, when in Year 1, DiPofi was just happy to have enough bodies to field a team.

“This is Year 5, in Year 1 I was just tickled to be able to have a team,” he said. “We have a steady flow of girls to be able to play, who are interested in playing and continuing to keep things moving in the right direction. We’ve tried to develop them before we see them in ninth grade and get involved early on.

“We have a decent core of kids in the fifth and sixth grade and give them an opportunity to see people watch and play themselves.”

One of the battles DiPofi had to fight during the 2012 season was the weight of expectations after reaching districts the year before.

But, DiPofi was able to keep his team away from any of those distractions and on the right course throughout the season.

“I really don’t think we focused on that a whole lot,” he said. “It was mostly unspoken things, we really didn’t voice anything, they just went about their business and didn’t put too much pressure on themselves. Inevitable, maybe I did that when we went to districts, but I just wanted them to do the best they could, playing-wise.

“Several of these girls are really good students and sometimes that takes their toll on them, worrying about getting them so I’m just proud of what they were able to accomplish.”

Perhaps a sign of how far Geneva has come as a program is that fact that while DiPofi is proud of his team, he wasn’t satisfied with its last round of the year.

“It’s a missed opportunity, realistically, I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” he said. “If you would’ve said it would’ve played out that way, to fall seven shots short of being able to get out, it’s a missed opportunity. We don’t get that chance very often and every coach tries to explain to his players to make the most out of every opportunity.

“I don’t think we have any regrets, it was that close and actually to think we could’ve gone down there in Division I with those powerhouse teams, that would’ve been pretty remarkable.”

DiPofi said he wouldn’t be able to have the success he’s had as a coach without the support of his wife, Elaine, and their four daughters, Gillian, Aubrey, Mackenzie and Addison.

“I’ve got the best wife and mom in the world in Elaine,” he said. “I’m able to focus on golf because I’ve been given the opportunity and my wife does more than her share. She’s exceptional and gives me a chance to fully develop this program. Without Elaine... she’s a godsend, I thank God for her every day.”

DiPofi also credited the parents he worked with as well as assistant coach Zack Mansky for his hard work.

“I have to make sure I thank Zack, he’s been a big help,” he said. “Also, Nancy Barbo (who DiPofi coaches basketball with at Geneva) doesn’t mandate me having to be around a whole lot during the summer, which allows me to work with these girls and grow the program.”

The Eagles will be hit by graduation again this season, but if history is any indication, they won’t suffer the consequences in 2013 as long as “The Guru” is still in charge.

Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at vpeluso@starbeacon.com.

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