Marion golf team looks to qualify for state meet

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Marion golf coach Doug Dick senses something special may be in the air in his 10th season of coaching.

“I think I can comfortably say this will probably be the best squad I’ve ever coached as a team,” Dick said. “I’ve had some very good individual golfers over the years, but it seems like we struggled to put more than just a couple in the same group.

“This year is an exception because we’ll have four, five or maybe even six pretty good golfers by the time the season is all said and done.”

Translation: Dick expects the Warriors to vie for a conference and regional championship and a shot to compete at Hesston in the Class 3A state championships.

“As a team, I think we have a good chance to qualify for state,” Dick said. “We have the potential to do very well, both individually and as a team.”

Among the 11 golfers on this year’s team will be two seniors.

Nickolas Hett returns after qualifying for state competition his junior year.

“He’s been my No. 1 golfer for the past three years,” Dick said. “He shoots a very good score and will probably medal at almost all the tournaments he participates in this year, much like he did last year.”

Marion’s other senior is state qualifier Joe Svitak.

“Joe’s probably going to be my No. 4 man,” Dick said. “He didn’t start golfing until he was a freshman, but he’s really gotten to be a pretty decent golfer.”

State qualifier Trevor Jones heads the list of four juniors on the Marion roster.

“Trevor is a good golfer with a good swing,” Dick said. “He’ll contend for No. 4 man, but he’ll probably play in the 5 spot this season.”

Also returning for the Warriors will be Nick Carlson.

“Nick played No. 2 man for me last year,” Dick said. “He’s a good solid golfer who usually shoots in the upper 70s in most tournaments.

“I’m expecting a lot from him this season.”

Another contributor will be Josh Whitwell.

“He’ll be a contender for one of our top six spots,” Dick said. “He medaled in a couple of meets for us last season.”

Rounding out the junior class will be Kevin Costello.

“He hasn’t been out before this season, so he’s a bit new to the game,” Dick said. “He played it a little bit when he was younger but he’s wanting to take it seriously now and he’s making good progress.”

Filling out the roster is a talented group of five freshmen, headed by Travis Hett, younger brother of Nickolas.

“Travis is a very solid golfer who played a lot of junior golf,” Dick said. “He’ll probably be my No. 2 man this season.

“He’s going to give his brother a run for the money this year, so it’ll be interesting to see those two battle it out,” he added. “I think Travis will make Nickolas work to maintain his No. 1 because Nickolas sure won’t want to lose his place to his younger brother.

“But that’ll make us a lot stronger team this year because competition is good.”

Even though the other four freshmen don’t have much experience, Dick said they’re an enthusiastic group that craves golfing knowledge.

The four are Paul Hodson, Dustin Steele, Mitchell Neuwirth and Casey Keazer.

“Paul played junior golf for me,” Dick said. “He’s still learning the game, but he’s getting better each day.”

“Dustin is also just learning the game, but he works hard out there,” Dick said.

“Mitchell is a beginner, but he’s excited about learning,” Dick said.

“Casey is excited about golf, too,” Dick said. “All of these kids who haven’t played much are willing to put the work in to get better and make contributions down the road.

“Either they’re excited about making varsity or they just want to learn the game and get better,” he added. “Either way, it’s going to be a fun year.”

Like most teams, Marion hopes to win a league championship. But the Warriors are in a unique position in that they’re striving to win not one, but two conference titles in the same year-the Cottonwood Valley League and the Mid Central Activities Association.

“We’re kind of in a transition period going from the CVL to the MCAA,” Dick said. “I’m pretty excited about playing in both leagues.”

Dick said varsity players are allowed to compete in eight varsity meets each year.

“Regionals count separately, so if they play in all of the meets plus regionals, they have the opportunity to play in 10 meets per season,” Dick said.

Dick said Marion narrowly missed qualifying for state last year, but hopes are high this year.

“The state meet will be at Hesston, which also hosts the MCAA tournament,” Dick said. “Hopefully, the MCAA tournament will be a warmup of sorts for our team for the state tourney.”

The location of the regional Marion will compete in won’t be announced until April 1, but Dick said the location and teams involved will be a huge factor in his squad’s quest for state.

“Hesston has such a great tradition,” he said. “Cheney was in our regional last year, and they return a lot-so our road probably won’t be an easy one.”

Dick said having 11 golfers on the roster is near ideal when it comes to instruction time.

“I think anywhere from 11 to 15 players is ideal,” Dick said. “We try to get on the range at least twice a week and I try to golf one-on-three with the kids once a week.”

Working on their short game- putting and chipping-is where the Warriors spend the bulk of their time, according to Dick.

All in preparation for a season that holds great promise.

“We’re going to be really solid,” Dick said. “Obviously, we have set some very high goals for our team.”

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