YORKTOWN – The golfers on Yorktown’s boys team are frequently asking around during practice. They want to know how the players in other groups are playing, and for two distinct reasons. On one level, they want to be supportive, and hope their teammates are playing well. They’re also competitive, so they want to make sure they’re playing even better themselves.
“We all obviously love to compete,” senior Eric Short said. “I think that’s what makes us such a good team, is that all of us know that we all want to beat each other, and we all know that. That forces us to practice more. We do ask about how everyone else is doing. It really does create that sense of competitiveness. It all makes us want to do better.”
Yorktown is coming off a season in which it finished ninth at the state tournament, and just one of the five players who was in the lineup at state that day (Palmer Hill) graduated. The result is a roster where lineup spots are anything but guaranteed. But while that helps cultivate a competitive nature among teammates, Short points out there is still a supportive desire to see teammates play well.
Short said teammates make sure to provide encouragement after seeing one of their own come off a bad hole in practice. As Short describes it, he wants to see all of his teammates have great rounds, with his own just happening to be the best.
“Yes, we do support each other, as much as that may come as a surprise,” Short said. “We all love each other, we’re a team. And we all want to see each other do well, especially at the end of the season during sectional, regional and state.”
First-year coach Nathan McClung is seeing that balance as well. An English teacher at Yorktown, McClung is able to see his players interact together at school as well as when they are together for team functions.
“Being in the building makes a big difference,” McClung said. “You see them at lunch together, you see them walking around. Social media’s been funny too. I know they give each other a hard time. On bus trips, you catch up on the little ways in which they pick on each other, but you can tell they get along really well; they’re good friends.”
McClung said he’s enjoyed inheriting a group with so much past success. He describes his job as not taking on a major building project, but instead working to improve a team that has already been productive. There’s an understanding that most of the players seek out private instruction, and there is little need to go back to the drawing board and make major changes. If there’s any developmental work involved, it comes with the junior varsity players he hopes can make an impact later in their careers.
Before Yorktown opened its season with a home invitational, Short said McClung encouraged the squad to focus on course management, evaluating the risk and reward of each shot. If a player were mulling two different clubs for a shot, he encouraged him to consider what would happen if he misfired with each club. The Tigers went on to win that season-opening tournament, shooting 303. Short shot 71 that day to lead the Tiger pack.
“He’s been absolutely awesome,” Short said. “He’s been great in just the mental (aspect). Because all of us have our individual swing coaches and stuff, and he knows that. He’s been great with our mental toughness and just helpful hints that will get us through the day.”
The following weekend, Yorktown shot a 298 team score at Hickory Hills Golf Club to win the Monroe Central Invitational. On that day, Caleb Morey was the lead Tiger, shooting 72, and Beau Mansker was right behind him at 73. In each of its first two tournaments, Yorktown dropped an 80, a score that would fit right into most lineups.
There is a clear sense of depth, that any member of the starting lineup (which has also included Blake Vise and Ben Conte early in the season) can produce a team-leading score.
With so many capable players, McClung doesn’t see the need for the coach to generate additional expectations.
“We don’t want to put pressure on them, because we know that they do that themselves,” McClung said. “These kids know that they have a special group, and this is that year, especially for (seniors Short and Morey) where they can really do some really neat things.”
Contact prep sports reporter Sam Wilson at (765) 213-5807. Follow him on Twitter @SamWilsonTSP.