Bulldogs dedicate season to fallen teammate
SIKESTON -- After a strong showing at the state championships last season, Sikeston's golf team is hoping momentum from the final round will carry over into the 2003 season.
"I'm expecting to have a really fine season," said Sikeston head coach Rick Oetting. "Hopefully we can win a district championship and have a good showing at state."
The Bulldogs were able to do both last season, winning the district championship and placing sixth in the state as a team. The most impressive aspect of the season was Sikeston's finish.
After a disappointing first round at state, the Bulldogs stood in 13th place. Sikeston made up for it with a stellar final round, posting the second best score of the two-day event to finish sixth.
Losing just one impact senior, the future looked extremely bright.
"They realized after that sixth place finish, having the second best round of the tournament, they can be contenders for the state championship," said Oetting.
But then tragedy struck in the off-season.
Standout Jonathan Spence was killed in an accident, leaving the Bulldogs without one of their top golfers and most liked teammates.
He shot an average score of 39 last season, and finished in 16th place at state.
All things considered, Oetting feels his team is taking it all in stride.
"I think the team has handled things very well," said Oetting. "We feel the loss of Jonathan Spence this year. He was an outstanding golfer."
Over the summer, members of Sikeston's team were involved in a scholarship fund raiser through the Bootheel Golf Club in Spence's name. The event raised nearly $7,000.
The team will also honor Spence this season with "JKS" printed underneath the Sikeston logo. The letters stand for Jonathan Kyle Spence.
"The team wanted to have that added to the logo this year to remember him by," said Oetting. "We want to honor him with this season."
Without Spence, just three state qualifiers return to the lineup this year.
Tanner Fritz is the most notable one.
"He's the leader of the pack this year," said Oetting. "He's an outstanding golfer that has gone to state since he was a freshman."
Sophomore E.C. Atchison also returns after a breakthrough freshman year, as does junior Matt Bain, another state qualifier.
"Every one of these boys shot an 81 or better at state," said Oetting.
Matt Hahn also returns with significant varsity experience, giving Sikeston a solid top four. The Bulldogs have three golfers fighting it out for the five and six spot: senior Zach Bell, junior Jason Deere and sophomore Martin Schaefer.
"All three of those guys are fighting out for position," said Oetting. "Hopefully it will make us better and keep the guys ahead of them on their toes. They've all posted some good scores in practice. We've got some potential there."
Sikeston also has some promising players that have moved up from the junior varsity squad, like Clint Bohannon and Ed Pike.
"We can still have five or six players out there that are very strong," said Oetting. "I see us being a contender. We've got a lot of expectations on us. That puts pressure on us to perform, but I think these boys can do it."
Sikeston will open the regular season on Monday at NMCC. The Bulldogs will then host Cape Central at the Bootheel Golf Course on Wednesday.
"We want to thank the Bootheel Golf Club and the Country Club for giving us two different places to practice," said Oetting. "That in itself has always helped this team be a better team, because they get to see different areas."
DEXTER -- Dexter's golf team will have a tough time living up to its accomplishments from last season. The Bearcats had a year for the record books, winning the 3A state championship.
The squad lost three of its top golfers to graduation, but head coach Eric Sitze isn't waving the white flag just yet.
"We won't be as strong as we have been in the past, but I have quite a few seniors that have been playing the last few years," he said. "We've also had a pretty good jayvee the last few years. We're not going to be as good, but we're not going to be completely out of it."
Two state qualifiers return from last year: Ryan Jackson and Michael Williams.
Senior Chad Galloway also has varsity experience. Junior Tyler Holden will also figure into the mix. The number five and six spots are still up in the air.
"I think our team is capable of doing okay in our district," said Sitze. "We can place in one of those top two spots."
Dexter will open the season on Tuesday, hosting Kennett.
NEW MADRID -- After somewhat of a down year, New Madrid County Central is hoping to rebound in 2003.
"I think we will have a better season than last year," said NMCC head coach Sherry Copeland. "We're still very young, but I think we'll be alright."
NMCC top golfers will be seniors Trey Edwards and Sam Coppage. Juniors Jonathan Cribbs, Chris White and Daniel Eddy will also contribute.
Newcomer Joseph Baldwin is also on the team, after playing baseball for the Eagles the last few years. "He's really starting to come on pretty strong," said Copeland. "In practice we're turning in some good scores. We'll just have to see when we get to the matches. If we are over 50 percent, I would consider it a successful season."
NMCC will open the 2003 season on Monday, hosting Sikeston.