Building on past success
Many people are extremely happy to see the piles of snow disappearing from the Blue Earth area so quickly.
Maybe none are as happy as Blue Earth Area High School boys golf coach Travis Armstrong.
“It looks like we will be able to get outside to practice by the end of this week (on March 29),” Armstrong said during an interview recently. “I never thought that would happen with all the snow we had still on the ground not long ago.”
He is also happy that it is now possible to be able to play some of the season’s early matches, something which is not always possible.
“We have three golf matches scheduled during our first week of the season, April 8, 9, and 13,” the coach notes. “We just might get lucky and have the area courses open by then, and hopefully not get April snows like last year.”
There is, of course, one more thing the Buccaneer coach is very happy about. He has every one of his top players back from last year’s team which ended up taking fifth at the state tournament.
“We have 19 boys out for golf, from grades 8 to 12,” Armstrong says. “And it is a good mix.”
Hunter Spencer is the lone senior on the varsity. Juniors include Kohl Jacobsen, Gavin Bruellman, Caleb Beeler and Jacob Beeler.
Sophomores are Ty Peterson, Zach Kramer, Braden Gudahl, Manning Lane and Max Ehrich. Freshmen are Nate Murphy and Kale Frank. Ashton Lloyd is the lone eighth grader on varsity, with the others on the junior high team.
Spencer, Bruellman, Gudahl and Lane are expected to be the top four golfers, just as they were last year. The other two varsity spots could be any one of a number of other players, Armstrong says.
“Our top 12 golfers are all really good,” Armstrong says. “I know the top four for sure, but the next bunch are all capable of scoring well, so we will just see.”
He adds that eight of the guys are returning with varsity experience.
“Besides Hunter, Gaven, Manning and Braden, there is also Ashton Lloyd, Caleb Beeler, Kohl Jacobsen and Nathan Murphy,” the coach says. “And Max Ehrich was our top JV scorer last year so we really have nine guys competing for the six varsity spots. I would bet that as the year progresses the six spots on the varsity will be filled by multiple guys depending on who’s riding a hot streak.”
The coach says the depth the Buccaneers have is one of their strengths. Most teams have a couple of strong players, and then it drops off after that. But the Bucs have tough players all the way down.
“Any one of our top six players is going to be capable of shooting a great score,” Armstrong says. “Our fifth and sixth players will be able to come in with a low score sometimes.”
Two years ago when the Buccaneer varsity had some very young players on it, nobody on the other teams were quite sure who these kids were, and they surprised a lot of people.
“Then last year, everyone knew us and we had a small bulls-eye on our backs,” Armstrong says. “This year I think we are going to have a really big bulls-eye on our backs.”
That notoriety comes with having placed fifth at state last year.
“We played well at state,” Armstrong says. “We were in fifth place after the first day, and we ended up in fifth place after the second day. But after the first nine holes on the second day we had moved up to third place. We played very well that second day, much better than the first day, but some other teams got really hot and shot really low scores.”
Placing fifth at state last year also got the Buccaneers noticed by some other schools.
“We added another tourney to our schedule this year,” the Buc mentor says. “We received an invitation to be in the Lakeville South tournament, which will be held at Dakota Ridge near Morton. All of the teams there are ones which were in the state tournament last year. Most are larger Class AAA schools, with only three teams in Class AA, including us.
The Buccaneers will face some other tough competition in the form of the St. Peter Saints this season.
“It got down to us and St. Peter last year at the Section Tournament,” Armstrong says. “It was a great golf match, with both teams shooting well. And just like us, they did not lose any of their top six varsity players either.
The Bucs and Saints will square off several times as they are both Big South Conference and Section foes.
“We will be ready,”Armstrong says. “These players shot a lot of summer golf last year and they have been practicing indoors during the winter whenever they could.
One issue is that several of the varsity golfers that were so good back as eighth graders have gained in height and filled out their frames.
“They are stronger, but they may have to adjust their swings some, due to these growth spurts,” Armstrong says. “But, I am sure they are up for it.”
Helping Armstrong this season is volunteer assistant coach Dusty Lane. Armstrong says he is pleased to have someone with Lane’s golf experience on board.
“This is going to be a very good year,” the coach adds. “These are all really good kids, and they are excellent students. Oh, yeah, they also happen to be very good golfers. But they work hard at it, too.”