Sep. 15—FRANKTON — Chloe Wenger came to the United States from Switzerland as a foreign exchange student this fall for a chance to study overseas and explore a culture different from her own while making new friends along the way.
Fortunately for coach Jeff Bates and Frankton, Wenger brought her golf clubs with her.
The Eagles' golf program in its fifth season of competition was expected to be strong this season with two top returning players and a large group of newcomers rapidly improving and adding depth. Wenger's talents — cultivated over 10 years of playing the game — have quickly made Frankton one of the deepest and strongest teams in the area.
"It's great to have a player with her experience," Bates said. "She knows the rules. Over there, they play with the boys a lot, so she's really honed her skills as a club player. Coming over here, our girls have learned a lot from her."
Coming from a European country where soccer is king, golf became Wenger's love after playing with family members as a youngster. Even where Alpine skiing is a popular sport, Wenger has stuck with the game of golf.
"My parents both play golf, so that's how I started," she said. "I really don't know much about other sports because I live in a soccer family. My sister and my brother play soccer."
This season, she helped the Eagles to their second Central Indiana Conference championship and a program-best runner-up finish in the Madison County tournament. Wenger matched her own school record for nine holes with a 37 at The Edge earlier this week and will also return to Europe with the school's 18-hole best 76 which she posted at the CIC championship in August.
There were differences Wenger had to manage early on. Golf is a club sport rather than a school activity back home, and practice regimens are different — playing a couple times a week in Switzerland versus daily here. And then there was a problem with her range finder, which measured distances in the metric system versus the English system golf courses in America utilize.
"It's very different because we don't have school sports in Switzerland, and I play really cautious over here because (the courses) are shorter than I'm used to, but it's OK because it's easier to get the second shot on the green," she said. "I have my own laser, so now I'm good. But my first round over here, I didn't. It was kind of different."
Bates said Wenger blended in with the team quickly, thanks largely to friendships formed with fellow seniors Bella Dean and Launa Hamaker.
"Once I met her, we are close friends now and she's really nice," Dean said. "Playing with her and watching her play helps my game. She's a really good influence golf-wise."
"Bella and Launa, and really all the other girls, have grown attached to her," Bates said. "Bella has done a great job being a team leader, a team captain, coming in and welcoming someone who could take her spot because she's that good. That is not an easy situation."
"I met the golf team before school even started," Wenger added. "That was pretty cool that I had friends and I knew where I would sit for lunch. Because of the golf and we had spent so much time together at practice, we got really close."
Bates also credits Dean with being a true team player with regard to Wenger, who took over the team's No. 1 position this week and will carry that into Monday's sectional at Noblesville. He said Dean's own character as well as her role on the state runner-up basketball team helped her to be unselfish in the situation.
"When you start having success as a team — and (Dean) is still having success as an individual — you look back and look at the accolades and what we were able to accomplish," he said. "That makes it a whole lot easier. Bella has done great as a team leader that way, welcoming Chloe to the team. The other side of that, Bella and Chloe have become great friends."
"Obviously, at first I was like, 'It's my senior year, and I'm the No. 1, and what if she's better than me,'" Dean said. "But that would be really good because that would bring the team up."
Wenger enjoys the team aspect of golf with new friendships and camaraderie being important to her. She is looking forward to leading the Eagles to Harbour Trees on Monday after a practice round Saturday, her first visit to the treacherous sectional site.
"When we first had a match, I was having a lot of questions," she said. "I think it's pretty cool having a team because when you're not so good, you don't get down because of the high scores. You're fighting for your whole team scores."
Dean adds she hopes to return the favor and play golf with Wenger in her home country.
"We are actually going to try to go back with Chloe this summer," Dean said. "That'll be fun to play a round. We've talked a lot, and I can drive in decently far and have a closer shot to the green. I think that will be cool to experience."
Contact Rob Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-640-4886.