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Spring Valley golf: Leach and co. hope to reload

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The Spring Valley boys golf team has strung together a couple of consecutive competitive golf seasons.

In 2015, the team took fourth in the WIAA Division 3 state golf championships and in 2016, the team returned and took third place.

One would hope the natural progression would be taking second or making the jump to take first.

"I definitely think we can make it back to state," said junior Tyler Leach, who won the WIAA D3 individual state championship by six strokes last year. "I really want to see us bring home a trophy, which means we take one of the top two spots. If we improve the way I know we can, I think that's possible for us."

That is a challenge for a team that graduated two of its top golfers from last year.

"We have our work cut out for ourselves," coach Matt Ducklow said. "I think we have some talent, but when you graduate the talent that we did, we'll need some guys to step up and fill those roles.

"Right now there are six or seven guys that are competing for the positions that are open."

Ducklow said having that many golfers to fill those spots is much better than the alternative: no one is capable of filling those spots.

"It's golf, though," Ducklow said. "Any day anyone can have a 10- to 15-stroke swing in their score. Because we have so many kids that can fill those roles it's going to be a challenge trying to find the right nights to pick the right kids."

A return to state is a good goal, but Ducklow wants the Cardinals to manage expectations and focus on their more immediate future first.

"I think a good goal for us to start with is to win every conference match," Ducklow said.

The Cardinals are off to a good start winning the Western Wisconsin Open, which includes mostly Middle Border Conference teams. Spring Valley also hosted and won a 6-team, 9-hole tournament on Thursday, April 13 defeating the second place team by 11 strokes.

All of this is part of preparing Spring Valley to succeed when it matters most, keeping in mind that even though they took third at state last year, they did not win the conference title.

The Cardinals are aware of that and that's why they're focused on improving their scores and building to compete later in the season. Luckily, their home course forces them to work on the finer points of their game.

"We have some things to work on," senior Zach Boisen said. "We don't have a range to head work on our driving as much as maybe other schools would."

Which is something that Ducklow said can be a good thing because it forces players to be more dedicated to wedge-work and putting.

Continued Boisen: "Out here (at Spring Valley Golf Course), it's a lot more mental. Our fairways are so narrow that you really have to focus. And out here, you're going to have a lot of bad shots because of that, but you just have to calm down and get after the next one. Which is the same as any sport, but it's even more true in golf."

Jalen Knuteson

Jalen Knuteson started as a reporter in the sports department for the Pierce County Herald in October of 2016. He has spent time working for the Portage Daily Register as a freelance reporter and as a sports assistant for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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