Cats, Raiders still searching for improvementApril 19, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — The idea of patience has been linked to the game of golf since its inception in 15th-century Scotland. But the Jasper and Southridge golf teams playing here in Dubois County in the year 2018 are in a bit of a rush.
On Wednesday afternoon, the teams played a nine-hole match, and what started as a prime Wednesday afternoon for golfing turned into a race to beat the clock, as clouds gathered overhead and precipitation from the heavens began to fall. Fortunately, it was nothing more than a quick shower as Jasper came out on top with a score of 160 to Southridge’s 187.
But according to Southridge golf coach Brock Matthews, good days for play have been hard to come by since the team’s first two matches to start the season.
“We haven’t had a great day to play,” he said, as the first drops started to fall and the wind gusts picked up at the Huntingburg Country Club. “We haven’t had a great playing day yet that’s nice and not cold or windy.”
But despite the weather challenges, the gentlemen-athletes have pressed forward with the determination and dedication the sport requires in order for progress to be made. Matthews said the boys started off shooting some of their best scores this season (180 as a team during a home match, and 174 at Evansville Central).
But with the last elements of winter making their final stand, the team has gotten away from the scores they’d like to see as of late. However, they remain encouraged in the progress they are seeing, and believe that things will turn around on the scorecards when the sun decides to make more consistent appearances.
Matthews’ focus for the team is on their short game management, particularly in operating within 100 yards of the hole. His goal is to have his boys landing the ball in the hole in two to three strokes once they get within a football field’s distance of the green. Matthews acknowledges that the team is still working toward their ideal form, but he does see sparks of good golf play in the early part of the season.
“We’ve had some good scores. Coby Reller had 39 at Evansville a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “We’ve had some good scores out of other guys, too, it’s just a matter of getting it to be consistent so we can have the whole team playing well at the same time.”
One of those other guys is junior Michael Kappner. Kappner is the No. 2 on Southridge’s six-man varsity golf team, and he used the winter, about four to five days a week, hitting strokes on the school’s indoor simulator. Matthews said his efforts are evident in his play.
“Kappner has improved a lot from last season,” he said. “Score-wise, ball striking-wise. He’s not playing a winter sport, so he had that time that some of the others don’t. And he made good use of it. It’s really showing in his game.”
Kappner himself classifies this spring as simply “better than last year,” saying that the team has been steadily improving and the lower curve on the scores they are shooting has led to a boost in morale among all of the golfers. Everyone is getting better and things are looking up.
“As a team we’ve gotten a lot better,” he said. “I myself have also improved with the team, and it’s been helping us a lot. It’s looking good for the rest of the season.”
Kappner said he has seen the most improvement in the teebox, and credits that area of his game as the catalyst for his improved play.
“I’m getting a good start to the hole,” he said. “I’m getting a good follow-up shot and that’ll bring me close to the green or on the green. That’s brought my scores down substantially, those two first shots.”
But Kappner isn’t the only one seeing his game develop in positive ways. There’s another team on the course in the form of the Jasper Wildcats, and sophomore Avery Hollinden has been stepping it up for their golf team so far this year.
“When I started I was kind of inconsistent with my shots and my putting was little off,” he said. “But then as the season’s progressed I’ve gotten more comfortable with my shots. They’re hitting right where I want to hit them.”
Hollinden said his improved chipping has led to the evolution in the play he has been experiencing lately. It has allowed him to become more efficient once the flag is in his sights.
“When I first started I was hitting them far, hitting them short, just never got the consistency that I wanted,” he said. “As I’ve progressed, I’ve done a lot (to work on) where I want them to be for a chance at par or birdie. I know that sooner or later if I keep practicing, it’s going to help.”
Jasper golf coach Caleb Begle called Hollinden a “pleasant surprise” who gets better and better every time he picks up his golf bag.
“It seems like he’s shooting better scores every day at practice,” Begle said. “Good attitude, comes ready to work, and does a good job for us.”
And Begle said that as a whole, the Wildcats have seen greater returns on their time invested in the sport, weather permitting of course.
“You can definitely tell the more we get out to play, the scores are starting to get better,” he said “Part of that comes with the chance to get out there and hit shots.”
As the days get longer and the playing conditions improve, both teams are anticipating taking their stroke games to the next level through hard work, concentration, and dedication on the links. But for the players, the result isn’t so much the goal, as is the journey of seeing themselves get their shots right and their stroke amounts lowered as they look toward sectional play.
“This year we have a good chance at sectional,” said Kappner, who finished with a 50 on the day for Southridge. “We keep getting our scores lower, we keep working hard at it, we’ll definitely be ready for sectional and ready to compete with all the other teams there.”
“For the team, I think the most important thing is practice, practice, practice,” added Hollinden, who finished with 46 for Jasper. “I know we’re all capable of shooting 38s, 39s every match. As a team I just think if we practice, we’re going to get there.”
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