As snowflakes fluttered to the ground outside last Friday afternoon, the Watertown-Mayer girls’ golf team practiced inside the school’s auxiliary gymnasium — again.
It’s been that kind of spring for both the Watertown-Mayer girls’ and boys’ teams, who had yet to get outside even on the driving range as of the end of last week. With meets scheduled to start this week, that type of practice locale is hardly ideal.
“We’re just working on our fundamentals,” said Watertown-Mayer coach Tyler Finkelson, who this year will coach both the girls’ and boys’ teams. “It’s really hard to improve your golf swing a ton inside. Because we have this gym, we can actually see where the golf ball is going, but it’s never going to replicate what we can do outside. It’s getting a little frustrating to be in here.”
The biggest challenge in preparing for the season indoors, Finkelson said, is that working on the players’ short games is almost impossible.
“That, of course, is probably the most important part of the game of golf,” Finkelson said. “We’re going to have to really hit that hard once we get started.”
The good news for the Royals is that every team is in the same boat at this point in the season, and the Royals may actually be in better shape than some teams because both the girls and the boys return a majority of their varsity golfers from last year. Last year, for instance, the boys’ team had no seniors and only one returning letterwinner. This year, everybody returns for the Royals. The girls’ team wasn’t as inexperienced as the boys’ last year, but they too return all of their varsity golfers this year.
“It should be good for both the boys and the girls to have that experience, and most of them will play on the varsity,” said Finkelson, who noted that a large crop of younger golfers was also encouraging to see. “We have a lot of good young kids that actually are into golf and are athletic. That’s going to help us in the future. This is the most kids out we’ve had in maybe 10 or 12 years.”
The Watertown-Mayer girls’ team will return four golfers who finished in the top 16 in the conference last year, and six who finished in the top 23. That group is led by Hallie Harding, who finished eighth in the Minnesota River Conference. Tiffany Anderson is also back after finishing in 11th place, while Alli Lague was 14th, Sarah Horlocker was 16th, Lyndzi Durkin was 20th and Madeline Nolan was 23rd. The Royals finished in fourth place in the MRC last year, and Finkelson said he thinks there is an opening for his team to move up this year.
“I think if everything goes like I hope it goes, and we can start off where we ended last year, I think we have a chance to win the conference,” he said. “We have that chance because a few of the higher rated schools in the conference lost quite a few girls.”
On the boys’ side, Jacob Menth leads the group of returnees after earning honorable-mention all-conference recognition last year for finishing in a tie for 11th place. Menth is part of a large senior class that also includes Jacob Wandersee (29th last year), Matt Fritzke (32nd), Jacob Grotbo (33rd), Dan Dressel and Brandon Kuntz. Junior Aaron Sweeney also finished 33rd in the conference last year.
“A few of the boys played quite a bit of golf last year,” Finkelson said. “We should see improved scores from the get-go with them. … I definitely look for an improved squad over last year.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]