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Prep golf: Trojan golfers are tested to be the best

WORTHINGTON -- If you’re a high school athlete, you’ve gotta to work at being exceptional.

Maybe especially if you’re a golfer. You might do just fine in most sports if you’re physically gifted, but every golfer knows it takes practice, and more practice, to be outstanding on the links.

Members of the 2018 Worthington Trojans boys golf team are well aware of the need to practice. They’ve learned it early in their careers. And now they’re headed to state.

Ben Koepsell, Jacob Prunty, Nick Weg, Lucas Boever, Zach Wietzema and Preston Thavixay will compete on the Ridges at Sand Creek course Tuesday and Wednesday in the Minnesota Class AA tournament. While the boys will go as a team, another Trojan -- senior Anneke Weg -- will participate on the girls’ side of the tournament field.

For all of them, dedication is the key.

Nick Weg, who just finished his junior year, says an important factor in qualifying for state as a team was the players who went before this current boys’ group. He and his 2018 teammates have looked up to other state qualifiers and saw what it took for them to become state-caliber.

“We all knew what we had to put in to get to state,” Weg said.

“Like (head coach John) Koller always says, ‘You gotta really work at it yourself to take it to the next level. I think we’ve all kind of taken it to heart.”

Worthington coaches Koller on the boys’ side, and Paul Barduson on the girls’ side, have proven this year to be able managers of their players’ spring successes. The WHS girls weren’t able to make the state tournament, in part due to a lack of depth -- but Anneke Weg, who all season long had the stuff of state, realized her potential in the Section 3AA tournament by placing seventh overall.

Koller takes little credit for his boys’ excellence.

“These guys are golf junkies. Most of the reason for their success is just their great desire and their work ethic,” he said this week during a practice session at the GreatLIFE Worthington course. “I’ve been blessed as a coach to have golfers who desire to succeed. I don’t have to put any fire in the belly.”

Nick Weg would agree.

“Golf is a game that if you’re talented, it doesn’t really mean much. It all comes from hard work, and your work ethic,” he said next to the putting green.

Like the Trojan girls team, the Trojan boys have not been as deep this year as in other years. They have four consistently strong golfers, and since only four scores count in team competition, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.

“It’s a luxury to have six golfers capable of shooting low 40s or high 30s, because you have others who can pick them up,” Koller said. “We’ve been pretty consistent with our top four guys, and that’s been the key for us.”

Koepsell is described by his coach as having “very talented hands. He’s just a very good athlete with very good hands.”

Prunty is the team’s bulldog. “Jake’s an extremely competitive player. He’s the most fiery competitor I’ve ever coached,” Koller explained. “Pound for pound, he’s gotta be the most powerful golfer out there.”

Boever is the team’s most improved golfer, evidenced by the fact that he’s shaved a couple of shots off his 9-hole average from a season ago. “His shot off the tee is a horse when he’s on. He drives bullets out there,” Koller testified.

And Weg? “Nick’s just pretty consistent. And he’s also a fiery competitor. He’s been steady for us this year,” said the coach.

Two other area teams will participate in the state golf tournament. The Murray County Central boys and girls teams will be ready to tee off Thursday at the Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker, with Tyler Groves and Jack Pierson leading the Rebel boys and Abby Hamman pacing the Rebel girls.

Several other individual performers from the area will try to establish their best scores Tuesday and Wednesday. No doubt, they’ll have put in plenty of practice this week to get ready.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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