By JAMES ANDERSEN
News Sports Editor
The first time they were there for the thrills.
This time, the members of the Alcona golf team are out to win some hardware.
The five members of the Alcona golf team-seniors Josh Mead, Lucas Weichel, Jacob Riggs, Walker Kelly and Dustin Yokum-will compete at the Division 4 state finals starting today at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek and are feeling good about their chances to win a state championship.
It marks the second straight season Alcona will compete at the finals. Last season, Alcona finished 10th out of 15 teams and the Tigers are looking to make some bigger waves the second time around.
"It's been a tale of two years. Last year it was a situation where, 'Hey, we made it to states, let's just enjoy it,'" Alcona Jim Bouchard said. "This year it's, 'Ok, we're going to the state finals. We've been there before let's try and compete for it.' It's excited going into it with a different mindset."
Alcona made program history last week after winning its first ever regional title. The Tigers tied their school-record score of 324, beating out Traverse City St. Francis and Charlevoix, which both shot 333. Alcona shot a 324 at districts last year and again this year. If the Tigers can come anywhere close to their magic number, Bouchard believes his team has a good shot to win.
"We all believe that if we get things firing on all cylinders, we can break that record," Bouchard said.
With Alcona's entire team graduating this year, Alcona's seniors are anxious to go out on a good note. Alcona finished with a two-day score of 669 last year and only two of the Tigers' golfers posted sub-70 scores. Kelly shot a 77 on the second day and Weichel shot a 79. It was a respectable showing, but it only heightened the Tigers' expectations this season.
"Our expectations were set five minutes after we posted our score at the state finals last year," Bouchard said. "We won districts and qualified for states (last year). Our goal for (this year) should be districts, take on regionals and get back to the state finals.
This season, the scores have improved and with them the expectations. At regionals, Kelly led Alcona with a 76 and Weichel and Mead both shot 79. Yokom shot a 90 and Riggs rounded things out with a 112. Bouchard said the key will be for everyone to have solid rounds on both days.
Alcona played a practice round on Thursday to get a feel for the course. The Tigers have never played the course before, but Bouchard is confident his team will be able to adapt accordingly, having played on a number of different courses throughout the season.
With more chance to golf in their high school careers, Bouchard hopes his golfers can go out on as high a note as possible.
"Coaches can only do so much, but being associated with it-not too many kids have the opportunity to say, 'Let's go get a state championship' and feel like it's really attainable."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.