If pressure's mounting, No. 3 Cats don't notice

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Dru Hein chipped onto the green on the third hole Wednesday at Jasper Municipal Golf Course, where the third-ranked Wildcats topped county rival Southridge 148-158. Three Wildcats fired rounds in the 30s including Hein, the meet’s medalist with a 35.For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — Last year’s finish, in which the Jasper boys golf team came four strokes away from the state championship, is still visible in the rearview mirror. This year’s group boasts two four-year starters, including one of the state’s top talents in Will Seger. As far as anyone can remember, the Wildcats’ current perch at No. 3 in the state rankings is the best ever for a Wildcat team.

Schneider

Consolidating on last year’s success with this season’s promise seems like serious business. Dense with pressure.

Well, maybe not so much.

Following Wednesday’s matchup with county rival Southridge at Jasper Municipal Golf Course, meet medalist Dru Hein found himself sandwiched in a bear hug with Seger and Jacob Bartley squeezing on both sides. A few moments later, four Wildcats circled, placed their arms around each other and rocked side to side in unison while chanting, like a college basketball team ready to hit the floor.

The circular celebration has become their ritual after wins, so after upending the Raiders 148-158, the Cats showcased their quirky side once more. It seems to be revealed regularly, since Jasper has been perfect in four outings this season.

“We have all kinds of weird things like that,” Hein said. “That’s the tip of the iceberg. We do crazy stuff all the time.”

Jasper coach Steve Milligan presented this euphemism with a smile when explaining his team’s chemistry: “It’s different.”

It’s also genuine. Before the Wildcats ventured to the Floyd Central Invitational a few weeks ago, the whole team lingered an extra hour after practice at Sultan’s Run to brush up on shooting out of sand traps. The Cats extended their time together Wednesday by grabbing Mexican food after the match. Appropriate, perhaps, since Bartley and Cam Weyer, undoubtedly the team’s two main jesters, constantly talk to each other in faux Spanish by adding an extra O to the end of words.

The image of those two belting out the ’80s classic “The Safety Dance” on a recent team road trip still has Hein laughing a week later. The relaxed vibe hasn’t always been in place, and it’s one he welcomes.

“My freshman year, I was a lot more nervous on bus rides,” said Hein, who registered a 1-under-par 35 Wednesday. “You can’t get nervous on a bus ride with those guys. They just make you laugh the whole time. It’s fantastic. There’s no nerves, because the whole time you’re constantly laughing, and waiting to see what those two are going to do next.”

They manage to intersperse some solid golf from time to time, too.

Bartley came in at 37, one stroke behind Seger’s 36. By Weyer’s standards, he wasn’t jazzed about his 40, though the round included holing a putt of about 30 feet on the eighth green. But Weyer can take jokes as well as he dishes them. After the match as scores trickled in, Seger shouted from a distance, “Hey, Cam, you barely counted!” since the Cats used that as their fourth and final score to count toward their team total. Reid Lorey, who chipped in on the fourth hole, was right behind with a 41, while Erich Hopf offered a 46.

Hein and Seger matched strokes nearly all afternoon in the same foursome with Southridge’s Tyler Gray and Beau Schneider, who each secured 37s. Much as Hein, Jasper’s No. 2 golfer, said “I’m more comfortable there than I would be at No. 1,” Schneider expressed the same of being in the copilot seat with Gray once again entrenched at the top spot as he’s been the last three years.
The Raiders have practically had a 1 and a 1A this season, since Gray paced Southridge in its first two meets and Schneider has logged the low round the last two times out, including Wednesday when he played Muni’s last seven holes at 1-under.

“I’m comfortable right where I’m at,” Schneider said. “I enjoy competing against (Gray) and he really challenges me, pushes me to get better. It’s nice to have somebody better than you to push you.”

Trey Reese (41), Ian Mathies (43), Corbin Neu (50) and Cleat Winkler (52) completed Southridge’s scorecard, and the advances from the entire cast are what have Raider coach Brock Matthews satisfied with big-picture progress.

With nearly all of last year’s team back this spring, Matthews said he’s been able to stress the sport’s nuances: missing pins on the right side instead of the left, not leaving chip shots short and having to complete the same chip again. To Matthews, Wednesday’s 158 felt like more of a victory than the night prior, when the Raiders totaled a 161 on their home course.

“We took some big numbers on holes we shouldn’t have last night, and we talked about that afterwards and how we need to manage our scores and prevent those high numbers, and they did that tonight,” Matthews said.

“To shoot the scores that we have, I’m pleased with where we’re at right now. I told the boys, ”˜I don’t care what Jasper shoots tonight, we need to concentrate on ourselves on getting better,’ and I thought they did great. I’m happy.”

So were the Cats, because it required their best nine holes of the spring so far to stage another victory dance.

“We shot our best of the year. One forty-eight’s a good score. I don’t care where you play at,” Milligan said. “You’ve got to keep getting better and better each time you go out, and that just proves that we got better.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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