Boys golf team looking for leadership from younger golfers

News Photo by James Andersen The 2018 Alpena High boys golf team is, left to right: back: Mitchell Wood, Jhett Werle, Nick Schultz, Gavin Reed, Jack Schmanski and Jimmy Bolanowski; front: head coach Eric Mitchell, Dakota Torres, Matthew Hoos, Sean Stevens, Michael Coonrod, Mitchell Agius, Charlie Halleck and assistant coach Ian Stevens. Missing is Alec Paulsell.

Last year, the Alpena High boys golf team had a pretty good season with an experienced group of seniors leading the way.

This season, the Wildcats are looking for a new group of leaders to step up.

With three members of last year’s varsity four graduated, there’s plenty of opportunity for Alpena’s younger golfers to step up and prove themselves as the season goes on.

“We’re really young this year, last year we had some really good senior leadership with Zach Ross, Evan LeTourneau, Tommy Hein; guys that had been there for four years and really worked hard,” Alpena coach Eric Mitchell said. “This year we’re replacing them with a really young team.”

The chance to compete for playing time is a huge selling point for Mitchell wants and he’s excited to see what happens.

“The thing I’m looking forward more than anything is this is an open competition. In years past it was pretty easy going into the year to say ‘Alright, we know who are varsity 1, 2, 3 and 4 are’ and this year it’s wide open. Everybody has a chance to get out there and be competitive,” Mitchell said. “Varsity spots are wide open and whosever playing best at that point is going to be a varsity golfer this year.”

Senior Alec Paulsell is Alpena’s only returning senior with ample experience and sophomore Sean Stevens spent time in the varsity four last season. Alpena’s other returners include Jhett Werle, Charlie Halleck, Mitchell Wood, Nick Schultz, Sean Stevens and Michael Coonrod.

Newcomers include: Gavin Reed, Jack Schmanski, Jimmy Bolanowski, Dakota Torres, Matthew Hoos and Mitchell Agius.

Several members of Mitchell’s team are fresh off of a successful season with the Alpena hockey team, so Mitchell knows he has a competitive group that wants to do well.

“We have a group of guys that are competitors. They play other sports, they’re hockey players; they’re not out there to just dink around and get out of school, they want to win,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be shaky at first for everybody, not just us but everybody. We’re going to cram a lot of golf into a one-month span and hopefully we really take advantage of that one month.”

The harsh start to spring has limited the Wildcats’ ability to practice and they’ve dedicated themselves to mastering their short games as they wait for the weather to clear.

“We got a couple putting mats this year. I ordered them last week when I saw the forecast for the next couple weeks and we’re really just working from the green back right now,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully later on next week if some of the snow starts to melt we can work on some chip shots, but there’s going to be no excuse not to know putting by the time we get out there.”

Once they’re able to get outside and work on all facets of the game, Mitchell is hopeful the Wildcats can have another competitive year in the Big North Conference. Alpena finished third last season, but struggled at the conference meet and is aiming for a better finish in 2018.

“I’d like to be competitive. I know I’ve been saying that the last few years. Last year we were really competitive. We came in third and did a great job, did well in a lot of tournaments,” Mitchell said. “Almost every team is in the same position where they had senior leadership last year and now they’re younger. That’s our goal is to stay competitive.”