The 2008 Class 4A boys' state golf tournament is scheduled for Oct. 10-11 in Des Moines.
For a Marshalltown team aiming to be in a state field for the first time since 2003, nearly every time it takes to the course will be against state-level competition.
The Bobcats will count on returning five of last year's varsity six to navigate through the tough CIML Iowa Conference.
Four of the conference's six teams made the state championship last year (West Des Moines Valley, Ames, Waukee and Fort Dodge) with Valley taking the title and Ames finishing second.
Seniors Jacob Butler, Jordan Alley, John Ryan, Jamie Bjorkman and Mike Carter are all back from last year's squad that finished four strokes out of making state at last year's district meet.
"Experience would be a strong suit for us," said Marshalltown head coach Jerry Appel. "Out of the top six we only graduated Tommy Craft and obviously Tommy was a big loss. He won the CIML and his scoring average was probably in the top five in the state."
Butler is back for his fourth season on the varsity and is the Bobcats' No. 1 player going into the season. He was a second-team all-state performer as a junior.
Alley and Ryan are in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, while Jamie Bjorkman is at No. 4.
"Those four have all been consistently shooting somewhere in the 70s with Jacob down around par," Appel said.
Senior Zach Oetker rounds out the varsity line-up for today's season opener at Fort Dodge. Junior Luke Rebik, sophomores Sam Bjorkman, Zach Shipley, Trent Hanke and Brandon Klosterman and freshman Ben Wollam will be pushing for varsity time as well.
"Everybody is bunched in there after our top four," Appel said. "All about 80s to mid-80 with not much separation."
"Like every golf team in the state, we'll have to try to find that fifth, sixth guy that can sneak in there for a top score so you don't put all the pressure on the top four," Appel added.
Fine tuning the short game, like always, will be important.
"Everything comes down to the short game," Appel said, "if you can chip and putt, you can score. That's something we'll always work on."
After today's 18-hole dual meet at Fort Dodge to start the season, Marshalltown returns home to host Ames Tuesday at 1 p.m.
"Experience means a lot," Appel said of his senior-dominated team. "They should know what they have to do."