Bobcats’ cupboard nearly full

Even though the Marshalltown boys’ golf team has practiced just a few days, coach Lucas Johnson already feels much more comfortable in his second year than he may have ever felt at any point in year one.

With a strong core of golfers from last year’s varsity returning, that comfort level will move to higher expectations for Johnson.

“The four guys at the top of our lineup will most likely be the mainstays up there all season,” Johnson said. “On any given day, any one of those four guys could shoot our low score. That is a huge positive for the squad.”

Those four golfers are senior Connor Johnson, junior Michael Schrempf and sophomores Sam Weatherman and Brant McKibben. All four golfers are shooting at or under 80 consistently so far this year.

“The best thing about that group is that they all have different strengths,” Johnson said. “Both Connor and Michael can hit it a long way, Sam is a good putter and Brant is a smart golfer and knows where to hit every shot.”

Coach Johnson feels like he will have two No. 1s at the top of the lineup in Connor Johnson and Schrempf. Weatherman and McKibben should battle all season for the third spot in the varsity lineup.

Also playing on the varsity’s top six during the Bobcats’ home and season opener Friday will be junior Brandin Chaloupek and freshman Cody Mead. The other golfer looking to move into the top six is sophomore Beau Ragland.

“There was much more participation over the summer and the guys played a lot more competitive golf,” Johnson said. “That should help us this year. That was positive.”

Connor Johnson is the lone senior on varsity and will serve as the captain after spending most of last year as the No. 2 behind the departed Riley Wirth.

“The guys have a lot of faith in him,” Coach Johnson said of Connor. “He is a good leader and the other guys look up to him.”

Schrempf played in just four competitive meets last season after injuring his hand during football season. The Bobcat junior won’t go down that same path in 2013 as he has decided to play just one sport, focusing his efforts on the links.

“The more golf you play, the better you will get,” Coach Johnson said. “I hope playing only one sport helps lower his scores. Having said that, I wanted him to play both because it only helps Marshalltown High School. It was his decision though. He wants to play golf in college so that played a big role in his decision I think.”

Several of the Bobcats took advantage of the two big tournaments in town this summer. Schrempf won his flight of the Times-Republican City Golf Championships and then won the overall title in the junior city golf championships. Connor Johnson was second behind Schrempf. Weatherman, Ragland and McKibben also participated.

“Something we are going to have to work on as a group is figuring out how to bounce back after a bad shot,” Coach Johnson said. “Bad shots are a part of the game. We can’t let them affect us for more than one hole. We have to have a short memory.”

In year two with the program, Coach Johnson should have a much easier time coaching on the courses during competition.

“I know the kids better now than I did last year,” he said. “Because I know how they play, I can help them with strategy on the course. That part is coming easier for sure.”

The Central Iowa Metropolitan League is once again loaded, led by defending champ Waukee, Ottumwa, Dowling Catholic, West Des Moines Valley and Johnston – all of which finished in the top 10 last year. Coach Johnson will first turn most of his focus to the Central Iowa Conference Northern Division – which features Mason City, Ames, Fort Dodge and Ankeny Centennial.

“I think Mason City will have some solid golfers,” he said. “Ames brings back Connor Power but should have some new faces. Fort Dodge is going to be young, too.

“There are no cupcakes in the CIML. Every meet you’ll see six solid golfers going against us.”

Defending Class 4A individual state champion Matthew Walker of Ottumwa returns this season. Senior Andrew Huseman of Ankeny was one of three golfers who tied for second, while Aaron DeNuci of Waukee also was in the top 10 last year as a sophomore.

There are 18 Bobcats out this season. And that amount of golfers should allow Marshalltown to field a pretty competitive junior varsity squad, according to Johnson.

Coach Johnson will have a new assistant this year in Jeff Tice, who is a long-time Marshalltown native who teaches at Miller Middle School.

The season opener Friday is a dual against Ames. Action at Elmwood Country Club tees off at 9 a.m.