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Central heads into golf season with bigger team and higher expectations

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Members of the Central golf team include (front, left to right) Jamison Feickert, Mason Loan, Griffen Hammersland, Owen Burke, Tyce Zittergruen, Blake Stevenson, Trey Young, Breckon Holst; Coach Tony Smith, Caitlyn Druecker, Makayla Erickson, Jillian Finley, Maddie Schmidt, Haley Frieden, Jake Hertrampf, Mark Hertrampf, Isaac Wellendorf, Keaton Klingman, Marcus Evans and Coach Ryan Burke. Not pictured are Brock Eglseder, Isaac Loan, Macie Winters and Dane Pope.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

Entering his second season as Central’s head golf coach, Ryan Burke brings a love of the game that’s grown over the last 20 years, since his high school days. He also brings a passion for teaching, especially the youth, and giving advice on how to improve to anyone seeking it.

 

Burke’s enthusiasm will additionally aid him as he navigates a new season with a larger group of athletes and more expectations. 

 

Leaning on his 20 years of experience, Burke changed how he is approaching this golf season, most notably with a renewed focus on time management. With a larger team, and with so “many rings in the fire,” as Burke put it, that was a necessity. Those rings he speaks of include being a bus driver and owning a business, ThINK Custom, which consumes a portion of his available time. 

 

The size of this year’s team is projected to hit at least 17 members, compared to 10 total from last season. This will have a major impact on the boys side, especially in earning a team score, something the Warriors couldn’t always do last year with just four boys. With 10 competing this year, getting a team score is almost guaranteed every meet. 

 

It’s a positive improvement, as is the overall growth in the program. Burke claimed it’s due to the amount of kids who seemed to enjoy their time last year and went back to school and told their friends. A grassroots, word-of-mouth movement has swelled the ranks of the golf team. 

 

When it comes to training the team, Burke indicated 85 percent of practices will focus on chipping and putting, the sometimes overlooked but vital short game aspects. While focusing on this last year, working on shots from 100 yards within the green, scores went down an average of six to seven strokes per golfer, Burke said. 

 

Everyone can mash a driver, but matches are won and lost around the greens, not off the tee. 

 

Another reason for stressing this is because “It’s going to be the majority of the shots,” Burke explained. 

 

“It’s like the old saying: ‘Drive for show, putt for dough,’” he added. “You can get to the green in two and five-putt. It’s still a seven. If you can learn how to get to the green in two and two-putt, you got a four.” 

 

The remaining practice and coaching focus will be working on 200-yard shots and driving. Burke said this is important—just not as important in the long run as chipping and putting. Those aspects of golf are also the toughest and hardest to learn, mostly because it’s “a lot of touch and feel,” or that “soft touch” some young golfers are missing from their game, he noted.  

 

In teaching the soft touch, Burke will have some senior leadership to assist. In total, this year’s team has four seniors, two of which are returning: Haley Frieden and Brock Eglseder. Burke believes both will help the newcomers when needed and be role models for the team. 

 

While the senior leadership and team size are both strengths, there is another that stands out to Burke: camaraderie. There is friendship between the players. Visible bonds have been created. 

 

“So far, what I’ve noticed, is they get along. The atmosphere of the team is close and tight-knit,” Burke said. 

 

Another major change is the addition of a junior high team, which previously didn’t exist at Central. According to Burke, the plan is to get kids on the course at a younger age, particularly kids who might be interested in pursuing golf in high school. 

 

“Why not give them those extra two years of practice,” Burke said.

 

The junior high team currently has around eight kids, which should generate more interest in the sport and create a pipeline of sorts to grow the program in the coming years. 

 

When it comes to weaknesses, the focus will be on course management—knowing what to do in certain situations on the course. This will be an ongoing process during the season, as situations come up during play. 

 

All of this has generated some increased expectations, most notably for Frieden to advance beyond regionals this season. Central also hopes to see the entire team go farther, with some possible tickets being punched to state. 

 

Outside of that, Burke wants to be competitive in every team round, get scores down and give the Warriors a chance to win. For the coach, everything after that is akin to playing with house money. 

 

Assisting Burke this year is a familiar face around the fairways, Tony Smith, who has been an assistant coach for 10 years. 

 

“All the kids always love him being a part of it. He brings a lot of knowledge in the game every day to practice. He played in high school himself and played in college as well. Great guy and love having him be part of the Central golf team,” Burke said. 

 

At the end of the day, Burke is looking for every athlete to be successful, to represent the team to the best of their ability and share a love of a game some suggest is a metaphor for life. As Nick Saban once said, “Whether you hit a great shot or a bad shot, you still gotta play the next shot. That’s how life is.”

 

Central will begin its season on April 13, at Tri City Golf Course, against Postville.

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