By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
The Mankato West boys golf team took its lumps last season.
With no returning letterwinners, the Scarlets struggled. But with most of the team back this spring, there is optimism that last season’s improvement can continue.
“I think we all thought that varsity golf might be a little easier, and we underestimated the competition and how hard we needed to work in practice,” senior Sam Blackman said. “But I think a lot of us worked hard over the summer, and we all improved a lot.”
Blackman is the only returning senior with varsity experience. Juniors Matt Newman, Justin Else and Galt Goettl also are back, though Goettl will miss about a month as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in the hockey season.
The Scarlets’ junior-varsity squad was undefeated last season, and head coach Jon Andersen expects junior Jordan Hellie and sophomores Jake Sisco and Brett Mulligan to step up to the varsity lineup this season.
“It wasn’t just one kid that jumped up last season, it was the whole team that improved,” Andersen said. “These kids played a ton of golf last summer, and their attitude and work ethic has been good. That’s going to pay off for them.”
The Scarlets posted their best score of the season, 323, at the section meet, leaving Blackman optimistic that the season-long improvement will continue this spring.
“I think we can move up considerably in the Big Nine, and when we get Galt back, I think we should be pretty good,” Blackman said. “If we work as hard as I think we will, and have some fun, we should be able to win some meets.”
West is scheduled to open the season April 13 at the Marshall Invitational.
When Nate Fuller became the Cougars’ coach four years ago, the average team score was in the 380s. Last season, that average had dropped into the 340s. He expects to see that number continue to come down this spring.
“I feel like with what we have coming back, with how hard the kids worked in the offseason, that we should be more consistent and scoring better this season,” Fuller said.
The Cougars are led by three seniors. Nick Rockvam lost in a playoff at the section meet to miss out on a state-tournament berth last spring, and Alex Zellmer and Nick Yess both helped the Cougars advance to the second round of the section tournament.
Junior Josh Sloniker, sophomore Chris Sadaka and freshman Carter Haley also competed in the section meet last season, and Fuller said that juniors Jack Cunningham, Ryan Kothoff and Bryce Milbrandt have a chance to break the lineup this spring.
“Last year was the best season since I’ve been here,” Fuller said. “I expect this season to be even better.”
East is scheduled to open the season Monday at Waseca.