In a typical spring, local high school boys golf teams would be well into the regular season, and have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of not only their own lineups, but the conference competition as well.
This year has been a different story, as teams have been relegated to taking swings indoors with the wet and cold conditions.
Not only are scorecards going to be affected once the season gets going — weather permitting — but coaches face the dilemma of deciding varsity spots based on past performance, as improvement is very difficult to see indoors.
“It’s impossible,” D.C. Everest boys golf coach Mike Salter said on judging the offseason improvement of golfers. “All you can do is take the kids (and) base it on what they did last year. Kids that were on varsity and your top JV kids from last season. Some, you know if they played quite a bit over the summer or went on spring break to go play.
“(In the past) by this time we have had our cuts and been outside. We are going to miss our first couple matches,” Salter added.
Baseball and softball players can work on their swings through indoor batting practice, and track athletes have the benefit of the indoor season to work on their skills. But in golf, the elements are part of every shot and the gym floor cannot replicate the way a putt breaks on the green.
“It would be like preparing for first football game and not putting the pads on,” Salter said. “We are just going to be behind this year. Ashland or Superior puts up with this every year. We just have to make the most of it.”
Wausau West coach Matt Johnson said the biggest impact might be on tee shots.
“You can see the first six feet (of your drive), but what about the other 175 yards?” he said.
Besides the potential of high early-season scores, here are some other things to watch this season.
Sandquist eyes top spot in WVC again
Two years ago, Wausau West golfer Matt Sandquist stormed through the Wisconsin Valley Conference en route to an individual conference championship. Sandquist was solid last year, but took second place in the WVC as Stevens Point Area Senior High’s Ryan Hofmeister claimed the conference crown.
This year, Sandquist wants to reclaim the top spot.
“Quite a bit,” Sandquist said of his motivation to retake the conference crown. “I can’t wait to get out there and competing again. I think the first time I will get out there is the first meet. I am just excited to get out there (playing) again.”
While Sandquist would love to be outside working on his game and his goals for the season, the senior knows that every other player is dealing with the frustrating spring season.
“We’re all in the same boat,” Sandqust said. “This year we are just not able to get outside It’s just about who can get their game where they want it to be first.”
Will anyone push SPASH in Valley?
Last season, SPASH breezed to a WVC title. The Panthers won all seven conference legs and had five individuals finish in the top eight of the conference standings.
The Panthers return a younger team this year, but a supremely talented one. Returning to the Panthers are James McDonald and Trevor Thomas.
“We have some returners with James McDonald and Trevor Thomas back,” SPASH coach Mark Vrieze said. “They are the anchors for us with experience in conference, regionals, sectionals and state. They absolutely enjoyed that and want to get back.”
The Panthers have to overcome the loss of Hofmeister, who helped them to a sixth-place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament last spring.
SPASH has some newcomers on varsity this season, who watched the state tournament run but earned some lessons from the experience.
“Michael Hofmeister and cousin Jake Hofmeister watched Ryan down there at state,” Vrieze said. “Seeing the courses we’ve played and understanding what that’s like and the type of atmosphere there is at state, hopefully that transfers.
“I think if James and Trevor get on board right without what we call the preseason with dual meet and tri-meets,” Vrieze added, “it’s hard to say without those early meets. But, if those two come out consistently in the 70s we’ll be tough to beat.”
With a lot of Valley teams hit hard by graduation, West might be able to push the Panthers, with the return of Sandquist.
“Matt is a special talent and will kind of anchor us again,” West coach Matt Johnson said.
Salter thinks it is a race for second place.
“The talent (at SPASH) … it is going to be a run for second place,” Salter said. “We gave it a pretty good go last year. We finished second, but after Point, I think Marshfield and West and ourselves will be there for second.
“When you have a guy like Sandquist back, he will do a fine job for them. You really have to have that solid No. 1 player. Point had just about everybody back from a group that had four of the top seven individuals last year.”
Small school surprises
A season ago, Pacelli’s Steven Maes and Mosinee’s Kyle Kolberg earned their way to the WIAA Division 2 and 3 state tournaments, respectively, and both had strong showings as well. Kolberg tied for 10th place and Maes tied for sixth.
With both of those players having graduated, who will be the next small school player to watch this year?
The answer might be Assumption’s Quinn Hartley, who also reached the WIAA state tournament and is a prime candidate to make a run in the Division 3 field.
Some other candidates to reach Madison are, Treva Etten of Newman Catholic and Charlie Beyer of Pacelli.