When Gabby Curtis eliminated the professional ranks as her next step in golf last fall, the former University of Wisconsin golfer began the search for other ways to stay involved in the game.
One of those options became an opportunity Tuesday when she was named the girls golf coach at Verona High School. Curtis, an Eau Claire native who is working as a real estate agent at Bunbury & Associates in Madison, replaces Jon Rebholz, who has been the coach the past three seasons and continues to serve as the Wildcats boys golf coach.
Verona has made five WIAA Division 1 state tournament appearances, four since 2013. Three of those appearances came under coach Bailey (Wundrow) Hildebrandt, who took over the program from its first coach Jill (McGuire) Thronson in 2007 and coached through the 2015 season.
“I’m super-excited,” Curtis said in a telephone interview with Wisconsin.Golf, saying that she talked to former Badgers teammates Jessica Reinecke -- a two-time WIAA Division 1 state champion at Verona -- and Tess Hackworthy about opportunities she saw around the Madison area. “I knew Verona always had a good program. This job opened up and I thought it would be a really good opportunity to get more involved in the community. I always wanted to keep golf part of my life so I thought this was a way to get more involved and still do what I love.”
Curtis, who played on the boys golf team at Altoona High School because the school did not offer girls golf at the time, ended her UW career with the second-best career stroke average (74.65) in school history. She played 128 rounds as a Badger and was a second-team all-Big Ten Conference selection as a senior, when she placed 18th at the Big Ten Championship.
With one semester of school remaining after she exhausted her athletic eligibility last spring, Curtis did not have the urge to pursue professional golf. She and her fellow UW seniors were divided in that area -- Lexi Harkins, for example, is now on the Symetra Tour; Stoughton native Becky Klongland is in her second semester of Law School at Marquette University.
“This past fall gave me the opportunity to play with my options a little bit,” Curtis said. “I was still finishing school. I had an internship and that kind of drew me to real estate, which is what I’m in now and I really loved it. Golf is a big part of business and I thought it would be a really good opportunity to keep golf around. Coaching, I’ve always been super-involved with our team camps that we do. I thought I could really help the (Verona) girls, too, and I’m excited to get involved and give them my knowledge and expertise.”
A three-sport athlete in high school, Curtis also excelled at volleyball and hockey. She said she hopes to draw from strengths of the coaches for whom she played in her new role at Verona, where she will take over a program that returns three golfers from a team that last fall finished second in the Big Eight Conference and qualified senior Nicole Thomas to the WIAA sectional.
“I’ve had a lot of different coaching styles from people that I’ve had as coaches,” said Curtis, who has continued to work at University Ridge less than two miles north of Verona High School and is uniquely familiar with the junior golf opportunities and practice options at the facility. “I’ll be able to pull the best parts from the coaches I really liked and try to stay away from some of the things I didn’t like from other coaches. I’m pretty well-rounded in that sense. I think the golf part is going to come the easiest; I know the game and I think I can help the girls a lot with skills and improving a little bit everyday.”