Boys Golf: Panthers get a fresh start
The process is taking shape in Ellsworth's boys golf program.
After graduating three seniors, including sectional-qualifier Zach Nugent, the Panthers are starting fresh as they build their 2019 varsity lineup.
Head coach Carson Huppert realizes the disadvantages of competing with an inexperienced team, but with the future in mind, his excitement for what's to come for his golf program tips the scale.
"When you're coaching at the highest level of competition, it's usually seniors who come through because it means more to them," Huppert said. "But with freshmen, you can start new. You can start a new culture where I can develop their minds and how they play."
Typically, Huppert doesn't get a chance to work with the freshmen and sophomores of the Ellsworth golf program until they're upperclassmen who've earned a spot on the varsity team, but with the varsity lineup wide open this season, Huppert will have a chance to coach some of his athletes for all four years of their high school careers.
But to reap the benefits of the process in four years, Huppert must ensure his golfers stick with the program until graduation. To do this, he has incorporated a new approach for recruitment this season.
"Mainly, I want kids out for golf who love to play it, not just because I convince them to play," Huppert said. "If they don't love the game, then it's just more of the same. When the season is done, they don't pick up a golf club during the offseason, then they come back with the exact same skillset."
Now that the golf team's season has begun, Huppert wants to make sure he continues to build that love for the game as the season progresses.
"If you can get them to love it, they'll eat it up themselves," Huppert said. "The ones who enjoy the game want to get better, ask questions, they work hard and they have fun with it."
Huppert's freshmen have boughten into his new approach.
Ryan Matzek and Carsen Stockwell recognize that getting varsity experience this season will present them with more long-term benefits than just receiving a varsity letter as freshmen.
"There are definitely advantages and disadvantages of (having a young team)," Matzek said. "I'm mostly excited because we're so new that we can break everything down and change things and get really good in four or three years."
However, they're also pragmatic about the frustrations they're bound to encounter in the early stages of their program's building process.
"I'm really just focusing on improving and growing closer with these guys, because I know we're not going to be dominant in the conference right away," Matzek said. "But if I can improve in a couple of areas of my game, I'll be helping out our team in the future."
Stockwell wants to focus on his short game this season, while Matzek said he needs to fix his shot, which has a tendency to always veer right. Together, along with the rest of the team, they'll need to remember what's ahead as they build up their mental strength in what's predicted to be a trying season.
That's not always an easy task in golf.
"My big thing is their mental side of the game," Huppert said when asked what will be the main focus of this season. "That's big in every other sport, but like in wrestling, it's about believing in yourself and everything is reactionary. In this sport, if something goes wrong, you can think about it and think about it and think about it. In golf, if I have a bad shot and carry that over to my next shot, I'm just going to continue playing bad over and over again.
"The brain is a muscle too. It's a different battle."
Matzek and Stockwell admitted to being nervous for their first varsity meet, but the two plan on tuning out the added pressures of competing at the varsity level.
"I try to just not think about it too much," Matzek said. "If you think about, then the pressure is going to get to you. I think it's better to just play around and have fun, but you definitely still need to have some level of focus."
Stockwell agreed and echoed his head coach when asked about his main concern for the season.
"You don't have to be an amazing athlete to play golf, and you can play golf forever," Stockwell said. "We just want to keep encouraging kids to come out for golf. It's a great sport."
Conference play begins at Krooked Kreek
The Panthers and Prescott Cardinals began the 2019 season at Krooked Kreek Golf Course in Osceola on Tuesday, April 9, and had little to no practice golfing a full nine holes prior to their first meet.
The seventh-place Panthers competed with four freshmen and junior Bailey Poellinger who recorded a team score of 230. Stockwell led Ellsworth with a nine-hole score of 52.
"I've tried to explain to the kids that it's not about the results and their actual scores," Huppert said. "Right now it's about going with the process, believing in yourself, keeping a good mindset. We've got something special coming, and right now it's just a waiting game."
The Cardinals finished in sixth place with a team score of 205 and were led by Ian Waters and Pat Haas who tied for 20th place with matching individual scores of 50.
New Richmond won Tuesday's season opener with a team score of 165 and claimed the meet's top-two finishers; Owen Covey shot a two-over-par 38 to win the meet, and teammate Cole Effertz finished the course in 40 strokes as the meet's runner-up.
Team scores: New Richmond 165, Baldwin-Woodville 177, St. Croix Central 178, Amery 181, Osceola 186, Prescott 205, Ellsworth 230, Somerset 232
Ellsworth: Stockwell 52, Nick White 55, Reed Olson 61, Avery Girdeen 62, Bailey Poellinger 67
Prescott: Waters, Haas 50; Brian Tayson 52; Carter Strand 53; Carson Stenroos 58