Shawano, Bonduel ready to hit links

Both start season today

High school girls golf teams opened the 2018 season on Monday. By Friday, teams could already be participating in meets.

The Shawano and Bonduel girls golf teams are each coming off successful 2017 seasons, with each team advancing to sectionals. Each fell short of qualifying for state, but Shawano’s Brianna Zook made it as an individual, tying for 54th.

Both teams again have high aspirations for the season but will each need to replace some talented golfers that left due to graduation.

Shawano will need to replace Zook and Brinley Kowalkowski, who served as the team’s top two golfers for much of the 2017 season. The Hawks will turn to a pair of juniors, Kiley Rusch and Macie Herm, and sophomore Taylor Johnson to lead the team.

While Shawano will not roster the number of seniors it typically does, the team still believes it has the pieces in place in order to have a successful season.

Rusch hopes to qualify for sectionals as an individual while also helping the Hawks to a strong finish in the Bay Conference and another sectional appearance. With such a young team, Rusch also hopes to lead by example.

“The most important thing is to always be at practice on time and ready to play,” Rusch said. “Secondly, when I come to practice I always try to be in a good mood. If you come to practice in a negative mood it brings everyone down.”

Without the presence of several experienced seniors, the typical progression of Shawano golfers will be put to the test.

“Our girls are usually just learning how to play in their first year, and by the time they are seniors, they have the possibility of being pretty good, if they have worked on getting better,” Shawano coach Dean Kugler said. “We are playing with a lot of juniors and sophomores this year, so we will see how that process plays out.”

While Bonduel did not lose its top two golfers, it still has to find a way to replace three graduated seniors. Jessie LaBerge and Kylie Guenther, who are now seniors, will lead the Bears this season.

LaBerge served as the team’s top golfer a year ago, finishing just three strokes away from making state as an individual while Guenther finished second on the team at sectionals. Coach Duke Copp believes each golfer could qualify for state as individuals this year.

With so few varsity golfers returning this season, the team will be counting on some underclassmen to step up.

“Sydney Luepke (sophomore) returns for her second year of golf and should be much improved,” Copp said. “The challenges will be finding some other girls to play and successfully compete at the varsity level.”

LaBerge wants to serve as a mentor for the younger golfers.

“In order to set a positive attitude for this season, I am going to focus on making sure the team bonds well together,” LaBerge said. “I strongly believe that we made it to sectionals as a team last year because we were all so close with one another. Making sure that we help each other on and off the course is important and it will lead to more success.”

Shawano and Bonduel are wasting no time in hitting the links, as both teams will open the season on Friday. Shawano will compete in an invitational at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Seymour while Bonduel will take part in a scramble at River Island Golf Course in Oconto Falls.