MANKATO — Carter Haley was already dedicated to golf, but after playing in the state tournament last season, Haley really turned it up last summer, playing golf all but two days.
During that “break,” he attended the PGA Championship to watch the pros swing the clubs.
“The state experience helped a lot,” coach Nate Fuller said. “He’s always been motivated and dedicated, but he become even more dedicated after that.”
Haley, a junior, is the only returning player at either Mankato school to play in the state tournament a year ago, tying for 38th by shooting 119 (40-40-39) in the weather-shortened event.
“It was a good experience for if I get back there,” Haley said. “I look forward to preparing to make it again.”
The Cougars had their lowest stroke average in many years at 327, led by Haley at 79.3. Other returning varsity players are junior Chris Sadaka (84.3), senior Josh Sloniker (86.3) and senior Bryce Milbrandt (92.1).
The Cougars finished seventh in the Big Nine and second in Section 2AA.
“I think we can be in the top three or four in the Big Nine,” Fuller said. “The guys are excited to get the season started. I think we can be very competitive in every match.”
Haley said that he and a couple other players can consistently shoot in the 70s. He’s longer off the tee, and he said the experience he’s gained in the last year will pay off in better decisions.
“Last year, the physical game was good, but the mental game is where I’m better now,” Haley said. “It should help me shoot lower scores.”
East opens the season Saturday at the Marshall Invitational.
Mankato West boys
The Scarlets have a strong group of seniors, led by Matt Newman, who was an All-Big Nine selection after finishing third at the conference tournament.