Seniors lead on the links: Beulah and Heart River boys golf teams pin hopes on experience
For the last three seasons, the Heart River boys golf team has been on the doorstep of a state crown. The Cougars followed a third-place state finish in 2015 with a pair of runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017, but as they get ready to hit the lin...
For the last three seasons, the Heart River boys golf team has been on the doorstep of a state crown.
The Cougars followed a third-place state finish in 2015 with a pair of runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017, but as they get ready to hit the links this season, the mentality is less about getting the monkey off of their back and simply performing to the best of their ability.
"Last year, our chances were as good as anybody and with the lineup we had, we were pretty optimistic. We just didn't shoot well the second day and that's the nuts and bolts of it," Heart River head coach Jerry Perdaems. "This year, we lost a kid that always gave us a good score, we talked about it already and we are just going to take things as they come. Hopefully, without that kind of pressure on us, we'll just go out and play golf like I know they are capable of doing."
For the first time since 2011, Heart River will be without services of Joey Wagner, last year's Class B Senior Athlete of the Year and the 2015 Class B Individual State Champion. Wagner was not only someone who consistently shot low numbers, but served as the captain guiding the Cougar ship.
"Joey was the hub which the rest of us all kind of revolved around. He was an all-state finisher as an eighth-grader and finished as a state champion during his sophomore year," Perdaems said. "He was a guy who did a lot of off-season things. His family was able to send him around the country and he brought some things back to our team. It was not just his scores, he's been our team leader for a number of years and led certainly by example....It's going to be a big hole, there's no doubt. High school sports, that's a constant thing that coaches, whether it's basketball, football, etc., that we all go through."
Two players Perdaems, the 2017 Class B Coach of the Year, hopes can fill that void are seniors Jayden Ewoniuk and Trace Jacobson.
In the state tournament, Ewoniuk finished tied for 24th last year and earned a tie for 14th place in 2016. After earning medalist honors in the Region 5 tournament, Jacobson capped off his junior season with a tie for third place at state.
Paradaems projects Jacobson will golf out of the number one spot with Ewoniuk right behind.
"We won't just look towards one or the other, they're both a couple of guys who are very capable of [leading]," Perdaems said. "The full lineup of our team is pretty darn young....They are going to need to bring some of these young kids along and they'll be up to the challenge from that respect.
"Trace is kind of a quiet leader, just goes about his business. I think Jayden is more of vocal kind of guys, wears his emotions on his sleeve a little bit more you'd say. Trace doesn't necessarily. They both are the kind of guys who can really grind so those are real pluses."
Junior Jett Mattison and freshman Jacob Robb are other notables for a Cougar squad looking to win its third consecutive Region 5 title.
Beulah, the team that finished behind Heart River in the regional tournament, finished seventh in the state tournament.
Just like the Cougars, the Miners will look to a couple of seniors in Michael Schmidt and Jase Sailer to lead the way.
"They've been at it for quite a while and our younger kids, they look up to them because again, they have been playing golf on our team for quite a while," Miners head coach Jeremy Brandt said. "They've been very competitive too for a long time. I think that there's no doubt that our younger kids especially look up to those two kids. Knowing that they are seniors as well obviously that makes a difference, but it's not just because they are seniors but also because of the experience they return."
Sailer collected a tie for 26th at the state tournament while with a two-day score 162, Schmidt earned All-State honors after finishing tied for sixth. Entering their final season, Brandt is confidence that the duo will show improvement.
"We kind of expect the same or better out of him," Brandt said of Schmidt. "He'll be one of our top golfers in our region and hopefully in the state as well. And Jace the same, he'll be one of our better region golfers. So I think with those two, we'll have two of the better golfers in our region, but after we are pretty inexperience. Everybody else got a few varsity meets in last year, but they certainly don't have near the experience that Michael and Jace do."
Unfortunately for everyone in the area, the weather has postponed the start of the 2018 golf season, leaving teams in limbo.
"As of right now, I guess we really don't have any idea," Brandt said. "Our golf course pro pretty much told us we won't be able to have anything at least in April in terms of meets go. We were suppose to have a home meet next Thursday, but that's obviously not going to happen now either so it's going to be a while. South Heart is scheduled to have a junior high meet on the 23rd so will see if that happens. After that, we're going to have to wait to see what happens with the weather. "