Growth, opportunity vitalizes area golf teams

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Jasper’s Dru Hein chipped onto the green during last year’s golf sectional at Sultan’s Run Golf Course in Jasper. The senior will look to guide the preseason fourth-ranked Wildcats to their sixth straight sectional crown and fourth consecutive state finals appearance. At Southridge, a familiar cast has high hopes, while Forest Park, Northeast Dubois and Heritage HIlls feature young squads.

Herald Sports Writer

As is typical for Jasper boys golf coach Steve Milligan, expectations for his Wildcat squad this season are largely kept between him and his players.

As secretive as the group may try to be, it’s somewhat easy to gauge the hopes of a group that finished third at last year’s state finals — just four shots behind state champion Evansville Harrison — and returns many of the central cogs that helped the Wildcats secure their fifth straight sectional crown and second regional title last season.

Heading the charge for the preseason fourth-ranked Wildcats will be Will Seger, who finished 11th individually at last June’s state finals with a 36-hole score of 149, including a 71 on Day 2. In November, the senior signed a letter of intent to continue playing at Indiana University, but as Milligan assured, it hasn’t dulled his dedication.

“He keeps these kids working hard every day in practice,” the 10th-year coach said of his No. 1. “When practice is over, Will would sometimes tell the kids to keep practicing.”

Milligan said that despite compromising climate conditions over the last month, the Wildcats have regularly stayed for an extra hour at practice and a few have even motored to French Lick to hit balls indoors.

Augmenting the staff will be senior four-year starter Dru Hein and junior Cam Weyer, who fired a 154 and 161, respectively, at last year’s state finals in Franklin. Junior Jacob Bartley, a varsity part-timer last season, will also enter as a regular this spring.

Juniors Jared Schnarr and Josh Krempp and sophomores Reid Lorey and Jackson Land will vie for the fifth slot in the rotation, which lost two seniors to graduation last year. Milligan anticipated challenge matches for the final position to begin this week.

As for those expectations? They’ll remain private.

“We talked together, and they’ve got goals but they’re not going to give out any goals,” Milligan said. “Their goals are something special. They want to make it a special year.”

If momentum can be carried over a 10-month period, Raider coach Brock Matthews believes this will be a special year for his bunch. Even if it isn’t a total propulsion from last June’s regional, where a relatively young Southridge team finished sixth, Matthews is still excited about what’s to come.

“(Regional) was the best that we played all year,” Matthews said. “And with the way we finished last year, they’re more confident in themselves.”

The Raiders return all five golfers from their regional roster, anchored by junior Tyler Gray, who his coach considers to be “one of the best players in the area.” Classmate Beau Schneider will fill in as the Raiders’ No. 2, while a trio of seniors — Trey Reese, Ian Mathies and Cleat Winkler — will occupy the remaining slots.

As for the reserves, experienced sophomore Corbin Neu should factor in at points as well for the Raiders, and Matthews has been impressed with his ball striking. The squad boasts plenty of youth as well; sophomores Evan Julian and Jocqua Blanchard and freshman Mitch Steinkamp add depth to the roster, as do freshman Luke Taylor and sophomore Joe Wininger, a first-time golfer.

Sophomore Cam O’Bryan, who faces the possibility of having knee surgery, remains a question mark for a team in search of its first Pocket Athletic Conference title since 2007.

“We’ve set goals this year that we want to accomplish and I think they’ll be focused,” said Matthews, who mentioned the ultimate aim being a trip to state.

“That’s something we’re striving for,” he said. “We want to play on that level.”

If there’s one word Ranger coach Chris Tretter could use to detail the state of his squad and where he sees it going, it’s simple: growth.

Not only do the Rangers return all six players from last year’s team, but they now boast a roster more than double that size. And by the second-year coach’s observations, his returners are as far along now as they were by the end of last season.

“I can tell that the returning players are a step ahead but I also have some younger players who have some experience as well,” Tretter said. “And I can tell they’re going to make a move throughout the year.”

The Rangers’ top returning scorer, junior Winston Glenn, worked at Christmas Lake Golf Course in the offseason and spent time after shifts refining his short game.

“He’s turned into a course rat,” Tretter said, “and that’s going to serve him well.”

Backing Glenn will be classmates Drew Weyer and Justin Sitzman, while sophomores Matt Miller and Addison Weyer have put in a lot of work in the offseason, Tretter said, and round out the top five spots.

Freshman Matt Nonte, who owns a promising short game and strikes the ball well, and sophomore Alex Russell, a solid all-around athlete, should supplement the bevy of young talent.

While Tretter said development is already becoming evident, the unit’s disposition remains strong.

“What I’m most proud of in these guys is they’re all really good kids,” Tretter said. “If there’s any type of identity, it’s that: They’re high-character kids and I’m really proud of that.”

For first-year Jeep coach Larry Matheis, the decision to come back to coaching was based off a simple realization.

“I enjoy teaching kids, teaching anybody really,” said Matheis, who coached at Northeast Dubois some 12 years ago, by his calculations. “(Golf is) a great game. Best game I’ve ever played.”

What Matheis hopes to do now is instill that same passion in his six golfers, three of whom are new to the sport. Accordingly, much emphasis has been placed on short game improvement, which the coach has stressed is ultra important for young golfers looking to shave strokes.

Senior Anthony Schmitt anchors the trio of golfers who are returning, and Matheis said he’s been impressed with his ball striking thus far. Sophomores Trey Foltz and Shaydon Voelkel also return for the Jeeps, who have been limited to hitting balls at a makeshift driving range behind the school, given course conditions this spring.

New to the sport are freshmen Kohl Cannon and Kaden Quinn and sophomore Bryce Neukam. Despite the inexperience on the roster, Matheis said he’s been more than impressed with the bunch’s willingness to put in the time.

“When we started, we asked them a few questions like what their goals were, and it sounds like they’re willing to work,” Matheis said. “And that’s the biggest thing: being willing to work.”

“I think we’re going to hang in there with the best of them.”

Fresh off the program’s first state finals appearance, the Patriots must now function with a roster void of any seniors.

Expectations have been tweaked accordingly, and overall, Heritage Hills will maintain a wait-and-see mindset, Patriot coach Marc Schum said.

“It’ll be interesting to see how things develop,” the third-year coach said.

The Patriot roster comprises just two juniors and a herd of underclassmen. Preston Van Winkle, now a three-year starter, returns from last year’s quintet, which captured Heritage Hills’ fourth straight conference title last spring. Schum lauded the junior’s disciplined short game and improved ball striking. Classmate Evan Braun, who moved to Heritage Hills this school year from Jasper, will likely fit into the starting five as well.

The Patriots are composed of four sophomores and four freshmen, some of whom will take on starting roles immediately.

Schum is hoping to see improvements out of sophomore Sam Collins, the team’s No. 5 last season. Freshman Corey Teaford, the younger brother of 2012 graduate Nick Teaford, should find a spot in the rotation as well.

Jockeying for the fifth spot should be a battle, Schum said. Sophomores Austin Hagan and Sean Schaefer appear as the top contenders to fill it.

Schum and Co. are targeting advancement past the tournament’s opening weekend. To help realize that goal, Schum said he’ll stress polishing short game first, ball contact second, and he hopes the pieces fall into place come postseason.

“I just hope we can show some decent improvement throughout the year and by the end of the year, hopefully we’ll be jelling together,” Schum said. “We’re looking to get out of sectional and get to regional and see what we can do from there.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at

More on