Fairmont boys golfers taking steps in right direction

TEEING OFF — Members of the Fairmont Cardinals boys golf lineup teeing off the season on Monday in Jackson include, front row (l-r): Kolton Fritz, Mathew Cone, Hartley Aust, Lincoln Clarey, Niko Flanagan, Kyler Gronewald and Colby Grotte. Middle row: Sam Buchan, Trent Van Egdom, Blaze Geiger, Brock Lutterman, Jake Harris, Alec Reutzel, Jaxon Johnson and Carson Johnson. Back row: Carson Kuhl, Blake Hilgendorf, Tanner DeWar, Brycen Lutterman, David Maakestad, Alexander Moeller and Creed Moore. Not pictured: Carson Pomerenke, Christian Thom, Jacob Weimers and Ty Nawrocki. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — A season to raise some eyebrows.

With a young team comprised of six returning players with varsity experience, the Fairmont boys golf program is ready to take a step forward in competition.

Fairmont head coach Brad Haugen said he was worried after losing key seniors Tom Havnen and Bryan Grotte last season, but he has been encouraged watching younger players at practice.

“One thing I was concerned with after losing Tom and Bryan last year, was the way they stepped into that helpfulness position last year,” Haugen said. “Bryan did such a good job stepping in helping guys with their swing, Tom did the same thing. All of a sudden, walking around practice, I even see the young guys going to the even younger guys saying, ‘Hey, I can help you with this,’ or, ‘Let’s get you aimed up here.’ As coaches, that’s what you want kids to do.”

Senior Tanner DeWar has taken a leadership role this year, assistant coach Ryan Stevens said. DeWar missed the Day 1 cut at the Section 2AA Meet last year by two strokes, while freshman phenom Alexander Moeller was the lone Cardinal to make it to Day 2 of the competition in the final available spot.

Moeller shot an 86 during Day 1 action last season, while DeWar hit an 88.

Brycen Lutterman, Colby Grotte, David Maakestad and Jake Harris all experienced varsity action last season and are returning to the course in 2019.

Stevens said DeWar is the leader, not because the coaches named him a captain, but because he sets the example and the other players follow.

“One thing about appointing captains is, is it given to you or do you earn that?” Stevens asked. “We look at Tanner as a captain. The other players who step up and fill those shoes, they kind of get that title without being told, ‘Hey, you’re a captain.’ What you look for in a captain is someone you don’t have to tell to set expectations, they show up and they set the bar and others follow.”

At the beginning of the season, the varsity roster has one senior, one junior, one sophomore, two freshmen and an eighth grader. Two juniors, two freshmen and three eighth graders compile the junior varsity and Stevens said with six spots on varsity, there will likely be competition for the final two varsity spots throughout the year.

Stevens said with many young players ready to compete at the varsity, it will be a tough competition to see who remains on the varsity.

Stevens said he believes the Fairmont boys can surprise some people this season.

“The expectation to improve is there and they have the experience to go out and compete,” Stevens said. “They know these matches aren’t won by one person. I’m optimistic. I think these guys could really raise some eyebrows, that potential is there. The rest is up to them on how seriously they want to approach it. Everyone is itching to get out on the course.”

Haugen said one of the best aspects of the Fairmont golf program is the enthusiasm and the fun the team has.

Haugen said the group of assistant coaches in Stevens, Mike Martinson and Josiah Passe bring enthusiasm to the program while encouraging more kids to enjoy golf.

“That’s what I want to bring, that’s why we search out a Ryan Stevens, because that’s what he brings,” Haugen said. “He brings that awesome enthusiasm where it’s infectious. Kids want to play for people like that. Mike Martinson, another assistant, again a great guy, he’s there, he’s helpful, he’s funny.

“These kids love to be around golf because we have fun, we do it the right way and we’re just trying to make it a fun atmosphere.”

The Fairmont boys open their season Monday when they go to Jackson County Central.