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Prep golf: Trojans look for consistent improvement

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE Returning letter winners for the Worthington Trojan golf program are (front, from left) Becca Christensen and Tyree Murray (back row, from left) Jacob Weg, Logan Ellenbecker, Tyler Van Hove, Jaren Solt and Will Mulder.

WORTHINGTON — It was a stark scene Monday afternoon as members of the 2014 Worthington Trojans golf team lifted their golf bags on their shoulders and escaped the school’s wrestling room for the wide open spaces at Prairie View Golf Links.

Fed up with two weeks of indoor practices, coaches John Koller and Ben DeRynck relocated to Worthington’s treeless rolling hills for some outdoor hitting. The clubhouse was empty and locked up. The ground was a yellow-brown and there was wind — lots of wind. The kind of wind that can set a walker off course. But the golf balls went flying, anyway. Testimony, perhaps, that the first-year coaches are determined to whip their linksters into fighting shape this spring.

Koller (the boys head coach) and DeRynck (who leads the girls) have done their best indoors. But as every golfer knows, it’s not until you get outdoors that the real improvement begins.

When the Trojans actually begin performing in meets is uncertain. A scheduled Saturday tournament involving nine teams at Prairie View has already been cancelled.

But the action will begin soon enough. Here’s a brief look at the prospects:

Boys The Trojans have completely reworked their indoor facilities, installing two putting greens and four short-putt stations as well as five hitting stations. “So long as no one gets killed, it should help us transition to the outdoors,” Koller said.

When the Trojans finally do get outside on a regular basis, and into meets, Koller says he wants to develop eight to 10 players capable of shooting under 50 and, thus, to compete for varsity spots.

“My goal is to improve our team depth. You count four scores, but you’d like your whole team to shoot the numbers,” Koller said.

Leading the list of hopefuls is junior Will Mulder, a long hitter with a long swing and solid short game who Koller describes as a naturally talented performer. Seniors Jake Weg and Jaren Solt also have experience and both are being counted on to be team leaders. Weg tries hard to improve every day, says his coach, and Solt brings a nice swing and long length into the mix. Sophomore Tyler Van Hove was a regular contributor last season and has a good, competitive streak. Nathoe Vorasane, a freshman, is a nice-swinging young player who works very hard at his game.

Koller, who last coached WHS varsity golf in 1998 and 1999, has a definite goal in mind for this year’s team.

“Our goal is just to try to improve every day and understand that golf is not a game of perfection. It’s a very mental game. I want to stay positive with the guys, and the only thing I want to expect is that they just give their all every day,” Koller said.

Girls This year’s Worthington team will be without its biggest star from 2013, Kate Lesnar, who graduated after placing 14th as a senior at the state tournament. Two experienced players lead the list of returnees.

They are seniors Tyree Murray and Becca Christensen. DeRynck describes Murray as a good leader with good presence of mind, and a player blessed with a solid iron game and an accurate putter. Christensen is a solid iron striker who can play the ball from anywhere on the course and can be successful with her middle irons at any time.

Some younger players DeRynck coached in middle school are now vying for varsity positions, and they include Ashley Hoefker, Selena Hua, Kelicy Anderson and Anneke Weg. DeRynck said two others, Erica Schutte and Rachel Koller, swing the clubs well.

“I’m going to come in with an open mind,” DeRynck said this week. “I know we’ve only been practicing indoors but we’ve had some really good swings inside.”

In Southwest Conference action and in the sub-sections, the first-year coach hopes his charges will be ready. “I think we can be there by the end of the year,” he said.

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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