With the sun shining and the birds chirping, Monticello golfers hit the links at the Monticello Country Club for two meets in as many days earlier this week. While the birdies may not have been as numerous as the birds, there were plenty of good, and more importantly, improving, scores to be found for the Magic.
Monticello, which along with every other spring sports team in the state got off to a slow start this year, has spent the first couple of meets trying to work their swings into shape, and find a consistent lineup. While the consistent lineup seems to still be a ways from reality, the effectiveness of their golf swings certainly continued to grow this week.
Monday, Monticello hosted an assortment of teams at the MCC. The Magic finished with 332 strokes, good for fifth place at the eight-team event. The team score was also close to the 325 stroke pace that captain Mitch Gifford said the Magic are aiming to shoot consistently.
Monticello’s effort was led by Tyler Talbott, who used just 38 strokes on the back nine on his way to a total of 81. Riley Wern. was right on his heels, shooting an 82, despite losing a contact on the fifth hole.
Wern said he felt something in the contact that was irritating his eye, but when he took it out to clean it, the contact dried up, becoming useless.
Without extra contacts on hand, the senior captain only had one choice at that point.
“I guess I’ll have to play without a right eye,” said Wern, of his thoughts at the time.
No matter. Wern played the next six holes at a remarkable one over par, making just one bogey, at the par 4 eighth.
Wern said the lost contact might have helped him take a little pressure off of himself.
“I started not worrying about hitting the ball,” said Wern. “And I don’t think I had a muffed shot after that. So that was kind of cool.”
The 82 strokes marked a career-best effort for Wern. His previous low total was 86, a number he hit four times last year.
Gifford was the third leading scorer for the Magic, finishing with a total of 84, boosted by a 40 on the back nine, where he played the final five holes at one over par. Gifford is Monticello’s most experienced golfer, and both Gifford and Coach Brian Hoffman are waiting for him to take the reigns as the team’s No. 1 player.
“I really want Mitch to turn the corner here and to find his consistency,” said Hoffman, about his senior who made it to the second day of the conference tournament last year.
“I think he expects himself to be that [No. 1] role. And I think he will be by year’s end.”
While Gifford looks to hone in his iron play, other players have stepped up to help keep the Magic competitive. A score of 85 from Colton Jones rounded out Monticello’s scoring at the Monday meet, and gave Jones one of his best scores of the year.
One golfer that didn’t score for the Magic Monday, but has been counted on early in the year is eighth-grader James Sherwood. Sherwood’s consistent down the fairway approach has earned him solid scores early in the year, including a team-best 85 at Fox Hollow April 30.
Spring Lake Park won the Monday Meet, finishing with a total score of just 307 strokes, six ahead of second-place Totino-Grace.
The sunshine carried from Monday into Tuesday, but for Monticello the positive momentum did not. Hosting their conference meet, the Magic struggled to get any of their golfers on track.
Tyler Talbot was one player who continued to play well. Talbot scored a 40 on the front nine on his way to an 84, the team’s best score for the evening.
Behind Talbot was Carlos Ibares with an 85. Ibares is a foreign exchange student, and while he missed Monday’s meet, he’s provided a large boost to the Magic this year.
“He’s been kind of a gift to my team,” said Hoffman.
Jones and Wern rounded out the scoring for the Magic, with each shooting an 89.
Monticello finished with a team score of 347 at the meet.
Rogers, to no one’s surprise, won the meet, continuing their run of dominance in the Mississippi 8.
The Royals have been one of the top programs in the state for years now, but Hoffman sees the opportunity to have them in their conference as a positive one.
“Rogers is good for the kids. It drives them to want to be better,” said Hoffman. “You want to play with kids that are more talented. You’ll learn a lot more from them. We just need to keep working.”
The late start has certainly left the Magic with some things to still work on.
“Basically last year by about this time, everything was working about 100 percent,” said Gifford. “This year, one thing always isn’t working yet in the match.”
But Monday it was clear that the Magic were getting closer to clicking on all cylinders. Hoffman expects them to get there, but he knows it has to happen fast.
“I started off the year with really high expectations, and I’m going to keep them up there right now,” said Hoffman. But it’s going to be a blink of the eye and it’s going to be the end of the season.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org