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Ellsworth golf team shoots for trip to state

Expectations are high for the Ellsworth High School golf team this season and not just because of wishful thinking.

The Panthers have one of their best teams since the mid-aughts and hope to take that team to the state meet in Madison for the first time since 2000, when they won the Division 2 title. The Purple is also aiming for its first Middle Border Conference golf title since 2004.

Last year's EHS team may have snuck into the sectional meet by placing fourth in the regional (the Panthers were fifth in the Middle Border Conference). But they more than held their own there by placing fifth out of 12 teams and shooting a 338. They also won the Colfax Invitational meet last season, finished second in their home MBC meet and were third in the Bloomer Invitational, the annual meet the Purple will golf at this Friday at Veterans Memorial Golf Course. Ellsworth returns all five golfers who made these achievements.

The Panthers will have a new head coach this spring as Carson Huppert, who is the girls' team coach, takes over for Cory Brathol to lead the boys' team.

"We have very high expectations, our goal is to go to state," Huppert said. "Only two go and we'll have to get past Osceola and Hayward to get to Madison. Both teams went to state last season and finished fifth and sixth respectively and return a lot of those golfers."

Certainly having back seniors Bryce Stein and Chrystian Kulow, who were honorable mention All-MBC last season, will help Ellsworth's chances. Also back are senior Kyle Kurrelmeyer and juniors Emery Whalen and Mike Tingelhoff.

The Panthers began their season yesterday at Clifton Highlands in an MBC meet. Ellsworth finished third with a combined score of 174 with Stein tied for third with an individual score of 41 and Whalen tied for fourth with a 42.  All of EHS's golfers shot in the 40s. For a first meet after just two rounds of outdoor play beforehand this spring and in very windy conditions, that was a good result. But defending MBC team champ New Richmond and Osceola both shot in the 160s and meet medalist and defending MBC individual champion Dan Cronick shot a nine-hole 36. Huppert said the Panthers know they have to do better not only to get to state but to compete with those two teams for the MBC title.

"Bryce, Chrystian and Emery all have the potential to shoot in the 30s and Mike, who has been improving a lot, can shoot in the low 40s and Kyle can do the same," Huppert said. "And they can shoot in the 70s and low 80s on a full 18-hole course. But we need consistency to turn that potential into reality. Everyone has got to find out what part of their indivdual games they're struggling at and fix them. We have to avoid bad holes. We can't afford multiple bogeys."

Ellsworth's lone home MBC meet will take place Monday at the Ellsworth Country Club. Golfers will tee-off at 4:30 p.m.