Rick McQuade intended to continue coaching the Watterson High School girls golf team.
His plan changed, however, when his younger sister, Mary, was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in October. McQuade, who led the program for 10 seasons, resigned as coach during the offseason so he could help care for his sister, who died Feb. 11.
"When my little sister became sick, I wanted to spend more time with her and I was preparing my home so that she could move in with me," he said. "I made my decision that I was going to retire from coaching golf at that point and, after Mary passed away, it would have been tough for me to go back to coaching again."
McQuade, 58, has been replaced by Thomas Hrach, a 2005 Watterson graduate who works as a manager at Brookside Golf and Country Club but does not have any previous coaching experience.
Hrach was hired as the Northland boys golf coach in 2012, but the Vikings ended up not fielding a team that season because of low numbers.
"I'm really happy to be a part of Watterson again because I really enjoyed going to school there and it's been a dream of mine to go back there and do something like this," he said.
Hrach did not play golf for Watterson. He tried out for the team as a freshman but missed the cut and turned his attention to other sports. He was on the junior varsity tennis team for three years before playing rugby with a club team as a senior.
"I wasn't varsity material in golf or tennis at Watterson, but I loved the experience of being a student there," Hrach said. "I can't wait to get our season started because we have a lot of talent on the team and I know we're going to do great things."
The Eagles had an unprecedented amount of success under McQuade. They advanced to the state tournament six consecutive seasons from 2005-10. Before his arrival, they had never qualified for state, which was first held in 1993.
Watterson placed third at state in 2006, when there was only one girls division, and again in 2008, when it was in Division I. The Eagles shot a 677 in 2006 to finish behind West Chester Lakota West (635) and Copley (673) and shot a 656 in 2008 to finish behind Mason (630) and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (656), losing the second-place tiebreaker to Walsh Jesuit on the fifth-player score.
Watterson was represented in the Division I state tournament the past two seasons at Ohio State's Gray Course by Erin Harper. After tying for 19th (158) in 2012 as a sophomore, she became the first player in program history to win a state title last year, carding a 145 over 36 holes to edge runner-up Cassie Pantelas of Massillon Jackson by two strokes.
Last season, Watterson won the Division I MOGGL championship, was runner-up (343) in the 11-team sectional at Mentel Memorial behind Dublin Coffman (302) and finished third in the nine-team district at The Links at Groveport behind state-qualifiers Coffman (300) and Dublin Jerome (308).
At district, Harper carded a 72 to secure the second of two individual state-qualifying berths. Also competing were Abigail Meyers (93), Avery Wakefield (93), Ellie Kairis (103) and Anna Kairis (109).
Anna Kairis graduated, but Harper, Ellie Kairis and Wakefield are expected to return for their senior seasons and Meyers is expected back for her sophomore season.
"I'm going to miss being around all of the kids and sitting with the coaches at the tournaments," McQuade said. "It was a good run. We had a representative at state eight of my 10 years and we had our first state champion (last year).
"I told Thomas that they're going to be solid again this fall because most of our top scorers are coming back. Hopefully, Erin will cap off her (high school) career with another state title."