Golfers looking to be in thick of it

Scott Swanson

Considering that, Coach Ken Anderson says semi-jokingly, the weather seemingly has been better during the first two weeks of golf practice this year than it was the entire season last year, the Huskies are off to a great start.

With six golfers back from a team that had no returnees last year, Sweet Home looks to be much more competitive in a league that seems to have no clear favorite at this point, said Anderson, who is in his second year at the helm of the program.

Last year was devoted to teaching the basics and etiquette of the game, with the help of assistant Jeff Burgess, who “really studies the game, really knows what he is talking about,” Anderson said. The focus wasn’t as much on being competitive.

This year that will change.

“Everybody’s got a year of experience,” he said. “If they did their off-season stuff and worked on it, I think this year’s club could be pretty competitive. Last year we finished in the middle of the pack in nearly every tournament we went into, with no experience.”

Back this year are two seniors, Christian Porter and Casey Horner, along with three juniors, Austin Yoder, Stephen Bishop and Michael Tolle, and sophomore Brenner Roberts.

Horner shot an 89 late last season, the lowest score for the Huskies all year, and Tolle led the team to a fourth-place finish in the district tournament, finishing with a 100 and a 94.

Anderson expects them, along with Bishop and Porter to be the team leaders this year.

“Our season goal is to qualify two for the state tournament,” he said. “Stephen Bishop right now is probably our No. 1 golfer. He has a chance.”

Also out for the team are two newcomers, junior Bryce Daniels and sophomore Chris Melcher.

Also assisting with the coaching will be Chris Miner who, Anderson said, “is a real accomplished golfer as well.”

Anderson was hoping for more of a turnout this year, especially after twice that number turned out for an informational meeting earlier in the year and some students indicated they were going to come out.

He said one problem he’s seen is a misconception about how much it costs to participate. As with other spring sports, if a student has paid the $75 fee for two others during the school year, the third is free.

“That includes golf,” Anderson said. “If you did two sports, golf still falls under that category. “

Although players must have a $100 annual course membership to be able to practice on Mallard Creek Golf Course, they don’t necessarily have to have that membership to be on the team.

“The Mallard membership is optional,” he said. “You can come out on the team and hit balls all day on the driving range.”

Anderson, who also is an assistant coach for the Sweet Home basketball program, said students don’t see golf for what it can be – a lifelong sport or how it can help them in others sports – particularly basketball.

“Most kids don’t understand that they won’t be playing baseball or basketball their entire lives,” he said. “They need to establish a recreation they can play forever. Golf is that sport. If I had known this when I was 18, I would have started playing golf. But I waited until I couldn’t play basketball any more. I would be a much better golfer if I’d started when I was 18.”

He said that golf also develops eye-hand coordination and mental concentration that translates to other sports.

“People that have played both basketball and golf, every one of them compares putting and free-throw shooting at some point. They are almost exactly the same exercises – get yourself composed, set up a routine, follow the routine every time. Golf is a real touch sport. So is shooting free throws.”

Also, said Anderson, a retired grocery store manager, golf can be helpful in the business world.

“Every business I’ve ever been in or been associated in has golf addicts. It’s part of every business. Every place I’ve ever worked has had a golf tournament. Part of being in business is being on the golf course.”

Anderson said it’s not too late for both girls and boys to join the team and he said the Huskies are going to go to tournaments in style, with new uniforms, rain gear, hats and duffle bags.

“We’ll really represent Sweet Home well this year,” he said. When we walk into a tournament, especially on a rainy day, people are going to go ‘wow.’”

The Huskies will also be playing on some “high end” courses, including private Black Butte and Shadow Hills and two matches at Tokatee. Four of their matches will be at home, at Mallard Creek.

They open Friday, March 15, at Tokatee in Cottage Grove, then return home to Mallard Creek March 20 for a “starter match” for junior varsity players.

“They’ll get a chance to feel what it’s like to play in a tournament,” Anderson said.