Golf team returns to State after dominating Districts

Following a phenomenal performance at Districts on Tuesday, Oct. 3, the men’s golf team is headed to State for the second consecutive year in a row. The currently No. 5-ranked team was put head to head with other top 10-ranked schools for three spots at the state competition in our district.

“Four of the top 10 teams are in our district, so it was surprising and exciting to get first and qualify,” coach Kenton Engels said.

At the district meet at Pheasant Ridge, the team finished with a combined score of 300, securing them a spot at state and first place in the district.

“We had expectations going in to qualify for the state tournament, even though we knew it was going to be hard and the teams we were going against were really good, but because we qualified last year and we brought all but one athlete back, our expectations were high,” Engels said.

Not only did the team overall get first at Districts, but junior Ben Bermel medaled and shot No. 1 out of the entire meet.

“It definitely gave me some confidence going into State,” Bermel said.

The team has been golfing well not just as individuals, but the team dynamic this year has played a role in leading them to success.

“It’s a good dynamic, definitely different. There has been more of a focus on data driven decisions. For example, after we play a tournament, I look at the results and make decisions about what to do to better the team next time. I think in the past it was chalked up to an explanation rather than the truth,” Engels said.

Sophomore Jack Moody said Engels has been key helping lead the team to a successful season this year.

“Coach Engels has been a huge part in helping us this season. When we aren’t playing as well, he helps us stay focused on our goals. He sets up practices that make the team better,” Moody said

The only senior on the state qualifying team, Brandon Nelson, also described what has helped him play well this year and how the new dynamic has benefited him.

“I’ve had lots of support from family and friends. Also, the team playing well this season has helped me gain confidence to play well,” Nelson said.

This season has had a lot of glory for the players, but it has also had its setbacks. “Overall, we have had a really positive season,” Engels said. “I think if you were to ask the individuals on the team (about their setbacks) they would have different answers, but a setback for us was having a habit of being close and then losing out. For example, in our third meet of the year we finished, out of the top three getting metals, fourth by one stroke. That’s just really hard because everybody can think of just one hole they could have done better. We also lost our home meet by tying for first and then losing by our fifth score, so that was also tough.”

However, Nelson said personal setbacks have taught him to be a better athlete. “I’ve learned that patience pays off. This year I’ve focused on not letting the bad holes get to me so that I can put up the lowest numbers I can on each hole,” Nelson said.

The team has come back from the setbacks stronger than ever, with a possible school record, shooting an overall 291, only three over par between the top four golfers.

“It is semi up for debate only because I do not have the complete history, but it is believed to be a record even though we cannot completely prove it yet,” Engels said.

This Friday, Oct. 6, the team will be heading to Marshalltown for a two day meet competing against the 12 top teams in the state. With that the team has high hopes for success.

“Our recent play has been so good. We are hoping to get top three.” Engels said.

With the great performance the team had at Districts, they realize they are closer to the goal than they originally thought.

“At the beginning of the year we just wanted to be back at State, but after Districts, our expectations have shifted. We beat the No. 1-ranked team in our district by seven shots, so we feel like anything can happen now. We are in a good spot right now because we feel that we can win,” Moody said.

Engles also said he believes in the team to reach higher than the original goal.

“We are only behind the first ranked team by seven strokes, so first is definitely in reach. I knew that the players were going to be good, but we are peaking at the right time,” Engels said.

With the excitement building up, the golfers nerves come with it, but with many years of experience, Nelson said pre-meet anxiety doesn’t phase him.

“I definitely have nerves, but many years of golf tournaments helps to keep me calm and relaxed for each shot,” Nelson said.

Bermel agreed. “I’m not too nervous right now, but I’m sure when it comes to Friday morning, I will have some nerves.”

The key to success?

“Anything can happen when you work hard,” Moody said. “Staying positive and focused all year contributed to that. At the beginning of the year we were just trying to make it back to State. Now we think we have just a good of a chance as any team to win it all.”

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