It will be a young but somewhat experienced Fort Scott High School golf team that begins its season this afternoon with a Southeast Kansas League designated tournament at Independence.
Five players return from last year's varsity lineup, three of whom are sophomores. Senior Blake Weilert, junior Dane Ramsey and sophomores Channing Nielson, Tucker Horn and Jonathan Allen played in each varsity tournament last season. They will be joined by freshman Conner Antonetti. Anthony Sercer and Josh Pytlowany, sophomores out for golf for the first time, may also see some varsity time.
"They've been working well," Fort Scott head coach Ken Klassen said. "We've spent quite a bit of time working on what's commonly called the short game, which tends to be the part of the game you need to do well on to score well."
The youth and inexperience of the players showed last year as they finished eighth in SEK as a team. Nielson finished 17th individually to earn Honorable Mention All-SEK status. Allen finished 23rd, 7 strokes shy of medaling.
The rest of the 12-player roster includes three first-year seniors, Dakota Singmaster, Jacob Thomas and Cole Snyder, and sophomore Tanner Johnson.
"It's really hard to say," Klassen said when talking about his expectations for this season. "Last year, we didn't score and play nearly as well as I thought we would, so I would probably be modest in my expectations. We want to improve our position in the SEK. We have considerable talent in our top three or four players. It's a question of whether their focus, concentration and temper can match that."
Klassen feels that it's the mental part of the game that will be a key for the youthful Tigers this season.
"It's a very hard part of golf, as everyone knows, just controlling their emotions," Klassen said. "You even see players at the professional level losing their cool when they don't perform well.
"It's easy to talk to them about that when they're cool and they're playing well. It's harder to do that when they're not doing as well. Hopefully, we'll mature and be more disciplined in our mental focus as the season progresses."
Klassen sees Neilson as a potential top-10 medalist in SEK play with Allen and Horn capable of earning honors as well. The first two tournaments of the year are SEK events as Tuesday's outing at Iola is also a designated event.
"I'd like to see us finish in the top three in the SEK," Klassen says. "They've got it in them, potentially. But to actualize that is a different story.
"Let's see if we can do it."
NOTES -- The Fort Scott Invitational will be held May 8 at 1 p.m. Scheduled printed in the fall had a 9 a.m. start time listed. There's a small chance that if the weather remains favorable, all 18 holes could be used. This is also the last of the four SEK designated tournaments....
Nolan Stark, who once played for Klassen and works at the golf course, has volunteered some time to help the team....