NEW ULM - Gaining experience and making improvements from said experience will be key to the Minnesota Valley Lutheran boy's and girl's golf teams with little returning from last year.
Coach Craig Morgan said his teams have young, inexperienced talent that will be pushing to make contributions at the varsity level - especially on the girl's team, which has four incoming freshmen.
"There's a nucleus of six or seven that will have an opprotunity to play varsity golf and then the other one, she will play every day and play every match because she'll be able to play all the JV matches," Morgan said. "So we'll be able to rotate people in."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sophomore Jacob Stuk and junior Katelyn Hardtke are two key returning golfers for the Chargers this season.
The girl's team has three returning players - junior Katelyn Hardtke and sophomores Sarah Hinderman and Sidney Freyholz - who will be expected to help the less-experienced golfers out as the season progresses.
"I think it pushes me to try to be better at everything that I do and encourage the other people on my team to do better too," said Hardtke, whose fifth-place finish last season was the highest among the returning three players.
Senior Jacob Bush-Grunewald is the lone returning player who qualified for sections last year for the boy's team. However, Morgan said Bush-Grunewald is currently academically ineligible.
With that said, Morgan will be counting on juniors Aaron Pietsch and Caleb Dinse as well as sophomore Jacob Stuk to lead the boy's team at the beginning of the season.
Last season, Stuk registered five second-place finishes and shot an 18-hole average of 103. Getting to the Section 2A meet has been one of his biggest motivators, but is not the only one he has.
"That's been a big part of my motivation to play is to get farther this year and the upcoming years to hopefully get to state," Stuk said.
MVL has not had a state qualifier since Zach Ring in 2008.
Dinse never finished higher than fourth last season, but Stuk said he will likely improve upon his marks from last season.
"He looks forward to getting out there and playing," Stuk said of Dinse. "He's always looking to improve his game and we just need people who are willing to play."
Morgan said he expects Stuk to do good things this season. However, Stuk said one of his biggest areas of emphasis has been honing his short game, especially when it comes to putting.
"It's really difficult to see how the grass is - if it's going to be fast or slow," Stuk said. "You just have to take your time and look for good reads on the green."
Hardtke's mid-to-short-range game has been one of her biggest areas of emphasis.
"I usually only use hybrids, but I'm trying to get into using [my irons] more," Hardtke said.
Compared to the other spring sports, Morgan said golf is not seen as a priority for most kids at MVL. While it can be frustrating - especially while adding up scores - Morgan said there is some good that comes out of the crummy situation.
"We get a lot of kids who have not played before," Morgan said. "So they get a club in their hands and you see the improvements are so big and it's just a matter of getting confidence. So that's been nice."
When asked of her expectations for the season, Hardtke did not stray from her focus.
"I hope to get less strokes, of course," Hardtke said. "I'd like to help the other people on my team to try to do their best as well as push myself to do better than I did last year."
MVL begins competition at 4:30 p.m. on April 8 at Springfield.