By JIM METCALFE
DHI Media Sports Editor
With five veterans back from a 14-13 edition of Wildcat golfers last fall (including 9-7 in the Northwest Conference, good for fifth place), fifth-year head man Chad Brinkman (52-43 overall mark) hopes his crew will make some noise this fall.
The lone Division III District qualifier — second-year senior Nick Fitch (49.6-per-9-holes average, All-NWC Honorable Mention) — leads the list.
Also back are fourth-year senior — and low scorer by average — Carter Mox (46.0; All-NWC HM), third-year senior Ryan Bullinger (47.8; All-NWC HM), second-year senior Zach Wannemacher (48.3; All-NWC HM) and veteran senior Jacob Hamilton (57.9).
Having to only replace one letterman, the graduated Tyler Rice, in either the top five or to provide depth, Brinkman will have a boatload of junior varsity letterwinners to choose from: Andrew Foust (sophomore), sophomore Evan Mox, sophomore Tristen Moore and classmates Connor Berelsman and Alex Theobald.
As well, a pair of junior girls, Bailey Gorman and Brooke Gallmeier, earned JV letters a season ago and hope to be in the mix.
In particular, Brinkman expects the younger Mox, Foust and Gorman to make a run at the vacant varsity spot or at least the top eight.
“Our strength will be experience with five seniors returning, including four NWC Honorable Mentions and a District Qualifier. Carter Mox, with three years of varsity experience, will be shooting for 1st-team NWC honors and a personal first district berth,” Brinkman noted. “Nick shot an 86 at sectionals to qualify for districts last year. Ryan and Zack earned NWC honors as well. All our golfers are striving for a strong season with a team goal to finish in the top three the NWC and a district berth.”
Brinkman hopes that four more prospective competitors — all freshmen — will add to the depth: Tyler Klint, Nathan Polhman, Aaron Stant and Brandon Hammons.
“We are working to improve our weaknesses: hitting greens in regulation and scoring consistency,” he added. “With 12 returning varsity and junior varsity letterwinners, we will count on experience to build on. I look for each player to grow individually and as a team, as well as looking to the younger golfers to learn and gain experience for the future of the program.
“I am looking forward to working with the new young men and women. We have good numbers this year, with six newcomers to our program, all with excellent character and the willingness to learn.
“We look for a strong top-3 finish in the NWC. Allen East is the early favorite.”
Assistant coach is Josh Vasquez.
The Wildcats began the season Wednesday.
Long-time Fort Jennings golf coach Todd Hoehn has three key performers back from last season to begin the 2014 campaign.
Senior Collin Wieging, senior Nick Sossan and junior Alex Sealts are the key cogs to build around, with sophomore Sam Vetter gaining some time last fall.
As well, junior Drew Grone and sophomore Austin Luebrecht expect to give their fair share of support to the Musketeer linksters.
“We have a total of nine players this fall, so I expect we will have good competition for varsity spots,” Hoehn said. “What we are striving for is to be consistent in our play and to be sound in our fundamentals.”
Gone are a veteran crew of graduates: Josh Wittler, Luke Luebrecht, Nate German and Kaylynn Noriega; along with other graduates in Ryan Rau and Alex Ketcham.
“We should compete since we have some experience back and with those players on the team, we should keep getting better throughout the season with our internal competition. In addition, with the off-season work some of the players have been doing, it should positively carry over to the season,” Hoehn concluded.
The Musketeers opened 2014 Wednesday.