Bobcat boys golf sets sites on return to state

The day before the Class 4A No. 1 Marshalltown boys golf team headed off to their District Tournament, things were just like any other practice.

That was by design, as Bobcats head coach Lucas Johnson would tell you, because the boys want to approach districts today like it is any other tournament.

All season, the Bobcats have done things the same way, and 11 out of 12 times that way has been good enough to secure top honors for MHS golf.

“We know that if we go play golf like we have all season then we will be fine,” Johnson said of the team’s approach. “A lot of times when you have a big meet, because it’s so big you have a tendency to change your preparation and that’s what we talked about, we aren’t going to change anything. We are going to go in there just like we have the last 12 meets, we are going to show up the same time we normally show up, go to the range and practice. We know if we keep our mind right we will be just fine.”

The Bobcats will be playing on a course they haven’t seen during the regular season for districts at the Pheasant Ridge Golf Course in Cedar Falls, and they will be facing off with teams that haven’t been featured at the same tournaments as they’ve played.

Johnson said golfing against unfamiliar foes will be an interesting challenge, but in the end the game of golf comes down to what each individual can accomplish.

“In golf you know that ultimately you are playing against yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who’s there as long as we play our best, we are confident heading in. There will be some differences just because we’re playing with kids we haven’t played with before.”

Marshalltown is familiar with the course itself, though it hasn’t played there in the regular season. Johnson and the team have taken trips up to Cedar Falls on off days to test out the terrain, and Johnson said Pheasant Ridge’s biggest challenge lies in the length of the course.

“The main defense this course has is how long it is, it is one of the longest courses we will play this year if not the longest,” Johnson said. “The saving grace of the course is that it’s wide open. As long as we trust our lines off the tee, as we are aiming at a small target we should be just fine.”

Five of the six main varsity players will be representing the Bobcats today, with Nate Vance, Luke Appel, Tate Carlson, Cole Davis and JD Pollard set to compete. Making his first appearance on the varsity roster in 2017 is Keygan Hansen, who replaces sophomore Mason Reid.

Johnson said the decision to go with Hansen instead of Reid wasn’t an easy one, but he thinks Hansen’s length with his driver givest MHS an edge.

“Definitely off the tee that will help us, as long as we are keeping the ball in play and striking it well,” he said.

With Hansen’s addition, this year’s district team is identical to the one from 2016. Johnson said Vance will be the leader this week, considering he got it done last year for an individual qualification, but overall this should be one of the greatest times his team has on the year.

“I think Nate comes in with a little more comfort this week just knowing what the week entails because it’s a fun week,” Johnson said. “It’s a week that, for our guys, has a potential to be one of the most fun weeks so we just have to make sure that we stay in the moment, stay focused on each shot and make sure that if we have a bad shot or a bad hole that we let it roll off our back and not carry that for three or four more holes.”

It’s been 14 years since the last time Marshalltown was competing for a team title at state. That’s not a fact that Johnson or any of the Bobcats need to be reminded of, as it’s been something they’ve talked about for the last two years.

Johnson said this opportunity to get it done and possibly play for a state title in their own back yard at Elmwood Country Club is incredible, and the team wants to do it for everyone who has helped shape what has become MHS golf.

“We’ve looked at this squad over the last two years as a squad that can bring back that tradition,” he said. “That was our poster last year, that was the tagline, to bring back the tradition. I think our community and our courses lend themselves to creating good golfers. Elmwood is a course that’s going to make players better in a way that a lot of other towns don’t have. Same with the access we get at Legion and Wandering Creek. That right there is something that the golfing community in Marshalltown has given to us and it’s allowed our guys to become as skilled as they are, so we just want to get back to that point. We are close, we just have to take one more step tomorrow.”