Just as it did last year, the Smith-Cotton boys golf team enters the season with three returning varsity players.
The only difference is the three returning players are the three golfers who last year were the rookies.
Back are sophomores Jacob Carroll and Alex Lorenz and junior Taylor Mankin, who now find themselves the experienced veterans on the team with coach B.J. Curry looking to fill the remaining two varsity spots from among 20 other golfers who came out for the team this spring.
“We have two spots open that we need to have filled,” Lorenz said. “We need to have some guys step up and play well.”
Lost to graduation from last year’s team are state qualifier Nick Carroll, sectional qualifier Conner Hurley and Ethan Wilken.
“I learned a lot from Nick and Conner and Ethan,” Mankin said. “They told me where to put it on the greens on certain holes, and when I was down on myself they would talk me up, come find me and tell me I was doing good.”
Jacob Carroll said last year’s seniors helped him with a lot of the basics.
“They helped me play a lot smarter and not to try stupid shots,” he said.
Curry hopes the experience of one year with that senior class will help this year’s returning players.
“I think playing alongside of them and knowing they weren’t far off from where (the seniors) were will help,” he said. “Hopefully they can carry that, plus playing in districts last year they understand the competitiveness.”
Jacob Carroll said he hopes to have a more consistent game this season. After shooting in the mid-90s many rounds last season, he wants to bring that down to the high-80s.
“My iron game has been really (good) this year,” he said. “I hope to keep it like that because I struggled with it last year. I need to work on my short game.”
Lorenz hopes to improve his short game and his driving.
“I don’t drive the ball very well sometimes,” he said.
Many of his scores were in the mid-90s last year, but he did have a round in the mid-80s and would like to be there on more of a regular basis this season.
“I hope to do well in district and maybe go to sectionals and shoot mid-80s a lot and maybe even low 80s,” he said.
Mankin is a well-rounded player with a good approach shot.
“I’m not great at anything but I’m not horrible at too much,” he said.
He was often shooting in the low-90s last season but had one round in the high-80s.
“Right now I just want to get my drive straight and my putting game back,” he said.
“With the snow I haven’t really been able to work on it.”
Curry said his team will be young but the experience of his two returning sophomores and one returning junior will benefit the team.
“We play basically everything within five weeks — 14 matches, districts, sectionals,” he said.
“Dealing with how much we play, it helps to have some kids that have been through it so they can help the ones that are going to understand it.”
Curry thinks the chance is there for his players to reach the sectionals.
“If they play good on the day of sectionals, they can make it to state,” he said. “The opportunity is there.”