Depth and experience are two words that describe this year’s Smith-Cotton boys golf team.
The Tigers return all five varsity players from last season and didn’t lose anyone from the team. The varsity returners are seniors Wyatt Foster, Taylor Mankin and Tyler Steger; and juniors Jacob Carroll and Alex Lorenz.
Veteran coach B.J. Curry said that the varsity five will be fluid throughout the season.
“I don’t think the same five will be playing each time,” Curry said. “We have several players with the capability of making varsity. It will be a battle amongst them throughout the year.”
Nine newcomers will provide depth this season: juniors Logan Dey and Ryan Lefevers, and freshmen Luke Husong, Jackson Kempton, Zach Morrison, Gage Saulbeamer, Tyler Thompson, Matt Tilley and Kendall Weymuth.
“We have several players that will vie for playing time on varsity, so this will push each one of them,” Curry said. “We have a very strong core of returning players, those that played varsity but also the ones that maybe didn’t see varsity action but have improved.”
With seven freshmen, many of whom will see varsity action at some point, inexperience could be the Tigers’ biggest weakness, according to Curry.
“We have some freshmen. They’re pretty good,” Lorenz said. “We’ve got some talent.”
Curry, who is entering his 24th season as S-C’s golf coach, likes the talent level on his team.
“I believe that we have several players with the ability to qualify for sectionals and then state,” Curry said. “Any of the five that make the district team will have a chance to qualify.”
Mankin and Lorenz like the Tigers’ chances of winning the West Central Conference tournament.
“We have the potential to easily win conference, maybe even advance past districts as a team,” Mankin said.
The Tigers finished fourth in the conference tournament last season, with Warrensburg winning the title with a 306. St. Pius X was second with a 317. O’Hara was third with a 354, and S-C finished with a 356.
Lorenz isn’t quite sure about advancing to the postseason as a team.
“I think we can win conference, but districts — I’m pretty sure only two teams advance — I don’t know how we’d do,” Lorenz said. “There’s some good golf teams (in our district).”
The Tigers finished eighth in the Class 4, District 5 tournament last spring. Rock Bridge won with a 311 and Rolla was second with a 330.
Carroll, Lorenz and Mankin have the best shot at qualifying for sectionals and state.
Lorenz advanced to the sectional tournament last season, Carroll missed by one stroke and Mankin by three.
Mankin said he spent the offseason working on his short game.
“My putting needs a lot of work,” Mankin said. “I’ve got pretty decent at chipping. I hit it pretty well. I try to hit as many fairways as possible. I do send it left every now and then, but you can only avoid so much.”
Lorenz knows he must improve if he wants a shot at making state.
“I’m pretty decent at ballstriking, driving,” Lorenz said, “but I need work on putting and chipping.”