One thing can be said for the Great Bend High School boys’ golf team: the Panthers have some experience under their belts.
Even though they finished last in the Western Athletic Conference last season, they did it with no seniors.
Now, GBHS opens its season on Monday in Salina with a few seniors who have some varsity experience.
“In our regionals, we always have Hays, the Salinas and McPherson,” GBHS head coach Troy Stein said. “It’s tough. There are a lot of good golfers, but I think a lot of the kids last year saw what it takes to compete at that level. I know that a lot of them took the time this summer to work on their games.”
The down side, Great Bend is still in the same conference as powerhouse Hays.
“The outlook on this season is better but not a lot better,” Stein said. “In the WAC, Hays has always got a good team. Garden City’s always got a good team. Dodge City usually pretty good.
“There coaches have been there a long time and they really know what they’re doing.”
Hays finished in second place at the Class 5A state meet last season, and it boasted two medalist — state champion Nick VonLintel and Trey Herman, who finished in a three-way tie for third place.
VonLintel was a senior and graduated from Hays last year. Unfortunately for more teams in the WAC, he was the only senior. Meaning Herman and the other four golfers the Indians took to state are returning this season.
If that wasn’t enough, Garden City and Dodge City each made the Class 6A state meet. Garden City finished tied for ninth place and Dodge City took 12th.
“I think we’ll be more competitive,” Stein said. “That being said, I think we’re going to have to knock a lot of strokes off our games to contend for medals. We want to be respectable. We want to contend for WAC titles. We want to qualify for state as a team. Those are the goals that we have.
“I think we’re starting to understand what it’ll take to do that as far as last year, they were sort of young and didn’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
The Panthers have six seniors on their 19-player team. Stein said he expects seniors and juniors to dominate the 6-man varsity team.
“Justin Jordan, who is a senior, and Aaron Mull, who’s a junior and Jeff Keenan, were some of our top golfers from last year,” Stein said. “I expect them to play well this year.”
Mull has been a team-leader since his freshman year.
“Mull hits the ball well,” Stein said. “I’m surprised that he hasn’t played better in tournaments because he can hit the ball, his short game is pretty good. You know, he gets in a tournament and he’ll just have one or two holes that’ll cost him.
“He’ll be a junior this year, but he has played varsity as a freshman. He went to regionals as a freshman and last year, he was our top one or two golfers all year long.”
The Panthers will have a freshman shaking up the varsity team.
“Chance Haney, who is a freshman this year, I expect him to play pretty well throughout the year for us,” Stein said. “(The rest of the team) all know he’s a pretty good golfer. Last year, we’d come out here for practice and we’d see him out here playing as an eighth grader.
“They understand the time that he has put in and the commitment he has to become a good golfer. I’m excited to see how he’ll play at a tournament. Even those first-tournament jitters, he’s played some junior golf tournaments but it is still a little different when you get to the high school level.”
GBHS begins its season on Monday in Salina.
Great Bend High School
2011 boys’ golf schedule
April 4 - At Salina Central, 10 a.m.
April 7 - At McPherson, 2 p.m.
April 9 - At Garden City, 9 a.m.
April 18 - At Hays, 3 p.m.
April 21 - At Dodge City, 3 p.m.
April 29 - At Hutchinson, 8 p.m.
May 2 - GREAT BEND INVITATIONAL, 3 p.m.
May 10 - At Liberal, 1 p.m.
HOME MEET IN ALL CAPS
Luke Abbott, Jr.; Sawyer Borror, Sr.; Kyle Bussen, Jr.; Dakota Ellis, Sr.; Chance Haney, Sr.; Justin Jordan, So.; Tyler Jordan, So.; Jeff Keenan, Jr.; Austin Morgan, Sr.; Aaron Mull, Jr.; Tanner Neeland, So.; Josh Prescott, Sr.; Chase Pumford, So.; Blake Scarmeas, Jr.; Trever Schremmer, Jr.; R.J. Seidel, Jr.; Kory Walters, Fr.; Caleb Werth, Sr.; Keelan Wertz, Jr.