Improvements seemingly inevitable for Jasper

Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper junior Halle Knies shot a 92 as a sophomore in the 2019 regional to lead her team, and returns in 2020 for the Wildcats first year in the rugged SIAC.

BY COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Jasper girls couldn’t quite attain a third consecutive sectional championship on the golf course in 2019. The final champions of the Big Eight Conference finished in second place behind Gibson Southern, but managed to get to regionals as a team.

Last year’s squad fielded a young team, and while coach Jan Tellstrom doesn’t envision his golfers showing a dramatic improvement, he does believe his team will show modest improvement.

“They’re more seasoned, they’re more mature,” Tellstrom said. “They’ve been around a lot of other players and competitors, both in the regular season but also in the IGA/PGA golf season. So, they’re playing some golf, so that part helps. The other part helps is the fact that they are beginning to understand the scoring mechanisms that allow them to play better.”

Tellstrom described them as, “pretty impressive girls.” Jasper has a couple of freshmen who he is high on — Lima, Ohio transplant Maddy Gaug, and also Molly Kissel, a Jasper resident. He praised Gaug and Kissel for having a lot of moxie, and an aggressiveness and willingness to fit in that’s pretty special.

“I will tell you this, they’re awesome,” he said. “As freshmen go, they’re as good as I’ve ever seen across the board on any school that we’ve ever competed against.”

Jasper’s top two returning golfers are juniors Halle Knies and Elizabeth Ackerman. Knies led Jasper with a 92 at the 2019 regional, while Ackerman shot a 99. Tellstrom believes the two of them have both shown great signs they will lower their scores. It’s too early for him to tell who will be in his top five this year, but he is certain Knies and Ackerman will take two of those spots.

“There is a cohesiveness that really begins pretty much with Elizabeth,” Tellstrom said. “She kind of sets the tone for the team.”

Tellstrom has been a golf professional for more than 50 years. He doesn’t know if this will be the greatest year Jasper girls golf will have, but he thinks this current batch is the most fun group of anybody he’s been around in a long time. It isn’t just Ackerman and Knies who he speaks an aura about. Tellstrom believes fellow juniors Avery Bartley and Anna Schmitt also leave a positive effect on the other golfers.

The golfers that seem to have shown the most improvement so far are junior Ainsley Pierce and sophomore Hillary Springer.

“Last year, (Springer), I’m not kidding you, she really struggled,” he said. “This year, I watch her hit golf balls in play, and it’s like, ‘What happened to you?’ Because she is so much better. So, she could be kind of an unsung hero.”

In Tellstrom’s eyes, it isn’t about winning and losing as much as it is growing, expanding and becoming better. That is what he plans on telling his golfers on the first official day of practice.

He knows, though, that Jasper will have its work cut out in its first year back in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, especially when going against the competitive Evansville schools that have a history of winning before they even show up to the golf course.

Tellstrom cannot tell at this point the chances of his golfers going to state as a team, because it depends on the other schools, but he sees a strong possibility of sending multiple individuals to state.

Jasper is slated to begin its season Aug. 3 in the Bloomington South Invitational. Tellstrom said his golfers will be in better condition than they have ever been, but scoring depends on his group jelling, making greens and making putts.

“I want them to create expectation, and then just try to meet that expectation, irregardless of what anybody else does, and then just compare it to the field,” Tellstrom said.




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