Making themselves at home

MHS boys golf hosts state meet with high expectations

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The Marshalltown golf team sits in the chairs on the 18th green at Elmwood Country Club before the Bobcats’ final practice on Thursday before the state tournament. Pictured are, from right, Luke Appel, JD Pollard, Cole Davis, Nate Vance, Keygan Hansen, Tate Carlson and Mason Reid.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • The Marshalltown golf team sits in the chairs on the 18th green at Elmwood Country Club before the Bobcats’ final practice on Thursday before the state tournament. Pictured are, from right, Luke Appel, JD Pollard, Cole Davis, Nate Vance, Keygan Hansen, Tate Carlson and Mason Reid.

Three months of preparation, 13 meets and tournaments against some of the best Class 4A teams in the state, all of the work the No. 1 Marshalltown boys’ golf team has put in over essentially the past two years, it all comes down to these last two days of the season.

Finally, after a season of wins and mounting expectations, the day has come for the Bobcats to take the course and work toward their first state title in 15 years at the Iowa High School Boys State Golf Tournament, and they get to do it at their home course at the Elmwood Country Club.

Marshalltown head coach Lucas Johnson has been good about keeping his boys focused on the task at hand and not looking towards a possible state title, so now that the chance has come his guys are used to taking care of business.

“For the first 13 meets of the year we took things one meet at a time,” Johnson said before the team’s last day of practice Thursday. “We are doing the same thing this week, it’s just that it’s the biggest meet of the year. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of that meet and for our guys to experience it and experience it at home, for the guys to look around Elmwood and see suddenly the best players in the state rolling in, that’s a lot of fun for them.”

Senior Nate Vance, one of the leaders on this Bobcats golf team, said something that is motivating him heading into play today is all of the people around town who have payed attention to this season and are itching for a victory.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“It would be so much fun, we have gotten so much attention from the community,” he said. “We’ve been trying to get some kids from school to come out here and watch because it’s free of charge and it should be a fun experience.”

Fellow senior Luke Appel shared that sentiment with Vance, saying that the people of Marshalltown will be on his mind throughout the next two days of competition.

“It will bring a lot of joy for the people, so we want to do it for the people so they can see Marshalltown win it again,” Appel said.

Unlike every other meet the Bobcats have faced, state is a two-day, 36-hole score to determine the winner. Johnson said the extra day of play is just another advantage his team gets at state, considering the depth Marshalltown possesses in its lineup.

“Knowing that it’s 36 holes I think gives our guys an advantage, over the course of 36 holes the best team is going to rise to the top and you don’t get quite as many surprises as you get on a district day where in the course of one 18-hole round a lot of weird things can happen,” Johnson said. “Over two days you are going to find out more about where teams and golfers are at, so I am looking forward to having that opportunity.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

Another nice thing about having the extra day, Johnson said, is knowing that if you’re not exactly the leader after day one you have a whole other day to gain ground and put pressure on the front runners.

“That’s the biggest cliché of the state tournament, that you can’t win it on day one but you can lose it,” Johnson said. “You can put yourself out of position, so that’s one of the things we will talk about as a team as we try to get mentally ready for the day, making sure that we make smart choices. You are going to feel a lot better at the end of the round on day one if you made a bogey by making a smart choice and chipping into the fairway rather than trying to pull off a miraculous shot from the trees and end up making a seven or an eight, something a lot harder to come back from.”

This state title run is essentially two years in the making for the Bobcats, as Marshalltown had a chance last season but failed to make the state tournament by two strokes at its district meet. Senior Keygan Hansen, who was on the team that fell short last season, said that heartbreaking experience from last season actually has the team more motivated to pull it all out this year.

“Last year we didn’t get to state when we were predicted to, so I think we would be more happy winning it this year than we would have last year because of what we went through,” Hansen said.

Johnson acknowledged that there is some pressure on his guys this weekend, and that they’ve talked about it in team meetings, but he thinks playing this tournament on their home course at Elmwood should take care of any lingering anxiety for the Bobcats.

“They’ve talked a little bit about pressure but we are playing on our home course, and I think that alleviates a lot of that feeling just because it is so familiar to them,” he said. “We are at home, it’s our backyard. They are going to roll out of their own beds in the morning unlike so many other teams that are rolling out of the Best Western or the Hampton. Our guys are doing what they are doing, we will go out for breakfast at OJ’s like we do before the Joe August and enjoy that.”

There is something special about being able to play for a state tournament for your school, especially getting to do so in your own town. Not many athletes get to experience that feeling, and Johnson said amidst all the hustle and bustle of the tournament he wants his guys to take a second and realize what exactly they are getting to do.

“I am just hoping that through the whole experience, the guys take time to enjoy the moment,” he said. “One of the phrases we’ve used throughout the season is that the journey is the reward, it’s not what tangible hardware you bring home at the end of the season you will remember, it’s them going all the way through to the last day of the season. We want our guys to make sure they are enjoying the moment.”

Of course, what better way to enjoy the moment than celebrating the first state title in 15 years? That’s what sophomore Cole Davis, currently the top-ranked golfer in the state, said is helping motivate him on the course this weekend.

“The fact that we haven’t won it in 15 years, I think finally putting us back on the board would be something special,” he said.

Johnson doesn’t have those expectations of his guys, or at least he wouldn’t share them with the media. He said they’ve accomplished the ultimate goal of breaking the 14-year streak MHS golf has had without a team state title appearance, so he’s already happy with what his guys have achieved.

“The thing that I look at is have the guys given it their all on every shot?” Johnson said. “Have they stayed in it, have they approached every shot with the right frame of mind that will put them in a position to be successful? If they can say they’ve done that then it is a success. Places, number of strokes, that will take care of itself.”

The 2017 4A fall golf tournament is slated for a shotgun start at 10:30 a.m. at Elmwood Country Club today, weather permitting.

State Qualifiers

Twelve teams compete for the Class 4A state fall golf title Friday and Saturday at Elmwood Country Club in Marshalltown. Here is a list of those teams, accompanied by their previous state golf championships.

Ankeny Centennial (1)

Ames (5)

Cedar Falls

Cedar Rapids Prairie

Cedar Rapids Washington (1)

Cedar Rapids Xavier

Dowling Catholic (8)

Dubuque Wahlert

Indianola

Johnston

Marshalltown (4)

Waukee (4)