It’s almost time for the Mt. Pleasant boys’ golf team to show what it can do in the toughest field of the season. The 2019 Class 3A state golf meet begins on Thursday, May 23. The Panthers are leaving today (Wednesday) to get up to Ft. Dodge and get set for what hopes to be a memorable two-day tournament.
The Panthers advanced to state after shooting a 336 on Thursday in Oskaloosa, getting to the tournament along with Pella (310) and Oskaloosa (327) in that grouping. It’s the first time the Panthers have been to state since the 2017 season.
Mt. Pleasant had plans to practice in Burlington so they could work on shots at more challenging courses, but the rainy weather has slowed down practice since Thursday’s qualification, so the Panthers have just had to work with what they’ve got.
“Practice since Thursday has been kind of slow,” senior Trace White says. “We’ve been at the range a couple of days, but other than that, we haven’t gotten to practice on the course, because it’s been closed.”
The Panthers have another long trip ahead of them. In 2017, Mt. Pleasant was all the way up in Livermore for their state tournament. Ft. Dodge is a shorter trip, but it’s still about a three-and-a-half hour drive.
That 2017 team took sixth place, with a score of 656. Current golfers White, Bailey Shelledy and Jake Moffett were all part of that squad, and they say it worked out as a learning experience for this year’s trip.
“The big thing I learned is using that course walkthrough more efficiently,” says Shelledy, a senior. “Getting green depths, watching slopes break. Using that so you’re more prepared and you can stress less while you’re out on the course.”
The Panthers haven’t played at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course, where the state meet will take place. Teams are only allowed one walkthrough and no practice rounds leading up to the tournament.
“If you look at the front nine, it kind of looks like Mt. Pleasant, open and short,” says Moffett, the only junior on the squad. “If you look at the back nine, it’s kind of like Flint Hills’ back nine. It’s also short, but it’s really tight.”
The Panthers will look for their best scores on the front nine, as the back nine holes are much more haserdous. All Mt. Pleasant players will begin on the front side, with Reece Kempker starting at hole four, White starting at hole nine, and the rest of the Panthers squeezed in between.
“I’m pretty ready for it,” says senior Rhett Zeglen, who joined the team last year. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Panthers aren’t setting any individual scores for themselves to hit, but rather hoping to finish out 2019 with a strong meet as a team.
“As a team, we want to win,” Zeglen says. “Individual goals, I just want to go out with a band, and do the best I can.”
Zeglen is the son of Rob Zeglen, the head golf coach, but he’s not the only player who will have a little family influence on his two rounds. Mt. Pleasant players are known for having big gatherings around them as they walk from hole to hole, including Brevin Wilson, who says it’s a big help having father and vice principal Mike Wilson by his side.
“I’m getting in a lot of talk with my dad,” Wilson says. “We’ve gone over the course online. He’s been very helpful with stuff, and he’ll be following me around, and probably trying to give me signals or something that I won’t get.”
Wilson, a sophomore is one of two underclassmen who were still in their middle school days when the 2017 squad made its trip to the northwest. He is a multi-year varsity player, as are White, Moffett, Zeglen and Shelledy. Freshman Reece Kempker was the newbie to the varsity group this season. He says he’s learned a lot in his first year with the team.
“In the beginning of the year, I’d live and die by every shot,” says Kepmker, whose older brother Riley played on the 2017 team. “If I have a bad hole now, I’ll just brush it off and move on.”
Kempker shot his first sub-100 score at the sectional meet in Burlington, where the Panthers cruised to a district berth. At districts, Mt. Pleasant had a bit of a rocky showing, but a 79 from Moffett and an 83 from Wilson helped the team move on to their ultimate goal, making the state meet.
“It’s always a great way to end a season,” says White. “Going once with Bailey and Jake, it was a blast the first time. I hope it’s going to be the same this time.”
Mt. Pleasant will tee off at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 23. They’ll start Friday, May 24, at 8 a.m.