Boonville Pirates golf coach Rob VanderLinden is not shy when it comes this year’s golf team.
After finishing third in the conference tournament in 2017, VanderLinden said with seven starters back there is no reason the Pirates can’t win the NCMC title this season or at least contend for it.
“Everyone is back,” VanderLinden said of this year’s team. “This is the best team I have had in my four years as a coach. They are more consistent and they compete every day. Hannibal has won seven straight conference titles but they are a little down this season. As for Marshall, they have the top golfer in the conference coming back but they also lost two seniors on last year’s team. I think we can contend just like everybody else this season. We have the most experience since I have been here, and in my opinion if we don’t go out and win all of our matches, we should at least be competitive.”
With 11 golfers suited out for the 2018 season, the Pirate golfers may not have far to go after finishing 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference last year.
VanderLinden said the strength of the team is again the experience coming back.
“This group is very competitive,” VanderLinden said. “They want to go out and practice and I never have to tell them to get going. However, we also don’t have that one golfer that is going to go out and shoot even par every round. It’s consistency. They all have the capability of having a round like that but not every time. Again our goals for the season are to win a conference championship. I want to win a NCMC title in our last year in the conference.”
If the Pirates are going to contend for the league title this season, VanderLinden will have to rely on senior Thomas Simmons and junior Reece Lang, at least early, on until the younger golfers can catch up.
Simmons, a three-year starter for the Pirates, finished fourth in the conference tournament last year and qualified for the district tournament. The senior golfer also had the lowest stroke average on the team in 2017 at 41.8 per nine holes.
“Thomas dropped his stroke average by two over the summer,” VanderLinden said. “I think he is on a mission this season to qualify for the state tournament, something that has eluded him the last three years. He just needs to refine his short game. Thomas has also been very helpful in teaching the younger kids.”
Lang also returns from last year after qualifying for the district tournament. While finishing the 2017 season with a stroke average of 42.6 per nine holes, VanderLinden said consistency is a big thing with Lang. “It’s just getting that hole by hole consistency and not getting that one or two bad holes,” VanderLinden said. “He just needs to limit the damage. But I will say this about Reece, he probably spent more time out there than any other golfer. He is always looking and asking how to get better. He is just trying to find that edge.”
With Simmons and Lang back at the top two spots in the lineup, VanderLinden will look to sophomore Jake Horst in the No. 3 spot this spring. While finishing with a stroke average of 45.9 per nine holes last year, VanderLinden said Horst has shown the greatest stroke average or improvement as anyone. “From tee to green he is as good as anyone, he just needs to fine-tune his short game,” VanderLinden said.
Sophomore Brayden Page also returns from last year. While playing most on the JV team last year, Page closed out the 2017 season with a stroke average of 48.1 per nine holes.
“Brayden also spent a lot of time out here this summer working on his game,” VanderLinden said. “He has worked himself into the No. 4 spot, he just has to get his scoring consistent hole by hole.”
As for the final spot in the lineup, VanderLinden said it’s up for grabs between Mason Hage, Grady Baker, Adam Schneringer and Cole Corbitt. VanderLinden said all four golfers are within a half stroke to a stroke in a half from each other.
“We will have the final qualifier to determine the fifth spot later this week,” VanderLinden said. “I told the kids that this spot could change throughout the season up until districts. I keep a running total and averages of their scores after every meet and will take the lowest five scores for varsity. Grady probably has the most experience on the varsity team after bouncing back between No. 5 and JV last year. His score actually won us the Moberly Tournament last year, a first for the team since I have been here. Adam and Cole are both three year golfers in the program so they have gradually gotten better through the years. As for Mason, he has improved his game greatly from the summer. He has come a long way in a short amount of time, I just wish he had started his freshmen year.”
Baker finished with a stroke average of 51.7 per nine holes last year while Schneringer and Corbitt averaged a 51.8 and 54.3 stroke average, respectively.
Rounding out the lineup for the Pirates this season are freshmen Carter Stumph, Fisher Jenkins and Brant Whitaker. VanderLinden said all three golfers are learning the game and will gain valuable experience throughout the season playing in matches and participating in one tournament.
2018 Golf Schedule
3-19    FULTON, 4 p.m.
3-20    at California, 4 p.m.
3-26    MOBERLY, 4 p.m.
3-28    at Mexico, 4 p.m.
4-2    Grain Valley Tourn., TBA
4-5    Boonville Tourn., 9 a.m.
4-6    Boonville Tourn., 9 a.m.
4-10    Moberly Tourn., 9 a.m.
4-11    Marshall/
    Sacred Heart, 4 p.m.
4-16    Sacred Heart Tourn., 9:30 a.m.
4-18    FATHER TOLTON, 4 p.m.
4-19    Centralia, California/
    Eugene, 1 p.m.
4-25    NCMC Tourn., TBA
4-30-5-2 District Tourn., TBA
Note: Home matches in caps.