Losing three of your top five golfers from a year ago is never a good thing to start a season.
But that’s exactly what the Boonville Pirates golf team is dealing with after graduating two golfers and losing another to baseball.
“It’s an uncertain outlook,” said Boonville Pirates golf coach Rob VanderLinden. “We lost three golfers from the varsity team last year but have two back with varsity experience. We also have three others with limited varsity experience. And then to top it off, we are battling the weather like everybody else and just trying to get enough qualifiers to see who is going to be varsity and JV.”
With only eight golfers suited out for the 2019 season, six of which are returning letterwinners, the Pirates are definitely not rebuilding for the future with  a heavy upperclassmen team.
Boonville also has something to hang its hat on from last year after finishing 10-1 in duals and 6-0 in the North Central Missouri Conference and fourth in the conference tournament.
However after leaving the NCMC for the Tri-County Conference this season, VanderLinden said he still feels like the new conference will be just as competitive.
“I think it’s a very competitive conference just for the fact that most of the schools are in the south and those kids grow up on the golf course,” VanderLinden said. “Osage, Eldon and Blair Oaks are all strong, but if everybody can come in and drop their strokes we will be competitive. If not we will be a middle of the pack team.”
To bide the time until they can get out on the course, VanderLinden said the golfers have being doing a lot of hitting and putting in the maintenance shed. He said since starting the season on February 25, the golfers have only been on the course three times in 11 practices.
Nonetheless when the Pirates open the season on Monday, March 18 at Fulton, VanderLinden said the goals of the team will be no different than any other year. He said the No. 1 goal is always to win the conference. After that, he said he wants the team to be competitive in every match and tournament they play in.
As for the strengths of the team this season, VanderLinden said this year’s team has a lot of experience. “They are mainly junior seniors, so they know what to expect and they have learned through the years how to correct their mistakes while they are playing,” VanderLinden said.
VanderLinden added that he doesn’t really know what to expect for the first match of the season against Fulton due to lack of practices. “For starters, we are going to play on a course that we have never played on before,” VanderLinden said, “so I am really up in the air on how we are going to play.”
But VanderLinden wants to get one thing straight when it comes to the top five golfers.  “Just because you are varsity for match No. 1 doesn’t mean you will be varsity for the rest of the season,” VanderLinden said. “I base my varsity lineup on qualifiers and scoring average throughout the season.”
As for the top five golfers heading into Monday’s match, VanderLinden said junior Jake Horst will be Boonville’s No. 1 golfer. While playing No. 3 last year for the Pirates, VanderLinden said Horst is working hard on his game after finishing last year with a nine-hole stroke average of 43.3. “For Jake to lower his average he needs to get better around the greens with chipping and putting,” VanderLinden said.
Horst is also the only returning golfer with postseason experience for Boonville. While earning all-conference in 2018, Horst also qualified to go to sectionals last year.
Junior Brayden Page also returns with varsity experience after averaging 44.2 for nine holes in 2018. While playing No. 4 last year for the Pirates, VanderLinden said being consistent throughout the course is going to be what drops Page’s scores and makes him a leader on the team. “Brayden and Jake will probably be battling it out for the No. 1 and 2 spots all year,” VanderLinden said.
As for the No. 3, 4 and 5 golfers this season for Boonville, VanderLinden said seniors Cole Corbitt and Adam Schneringer and junior Grady Baker are all battling it out through qualifiers. Baker finished with a nine-hole stroke average of 51.7 while Corbitt and Schneringer scored an average of 51.8 and 52.3, respectively.
“All three need to work on their consistency to lower their scores,” VanderLinden said. “We know they all have varsity experience but for us to be successful this season, we need all three to step up.”
Rounding out the team for Boonville are seniors Tyler Schuster and Lucas Ziegelbein and sophomore Brant Whitaker.
VanderLinden said all three golfers are working to improve. “Golf is an extremely hard game to be competitive your first couple of years playing,” VanderLinden said. “Tyler, Lucas and Brant are all fairly new to the game but have already shown improvement. This is Tyler and Lucas first year in golf and they have already shown improvement. They will hopefully be improved to the point where they can get into a varsity spot.”
The Boonville Pirates golf team will host two tournaments this spring at Hail Ridge Golf Course. The first tournament will be a 27-hole varsity tournament on Thursday, April 4. VanderLinden said the Boonville Masters Tournament, which is in its fifth year, will be limited to 12 teams. “Right now we have 11 varsity teams signed up to play,” VanderLinden said.
The second tournament, known as the Boonville JV Scramble Tournament, will be held on Friday, April 5. VanderLinden said the 18 hole tournament, which is in its second year, will consist of 10-12 teams.