(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Banking on their depth and experience, the Sikeston Bulldogs golf team is looking to have one of it's best seasons in recent years.
Three-time state qualifier Evan Deere leads a pack of seasoned players as well as a few up and comers as they try to improve as individuals and as a team -- something they struggled with last year.
"We definitely have the skill on the team, we just have to get everyone playing a good round at the same time," Deere said. "We proved we can play well when we took first in the Poplar Bluff tournament last year, we are definitely capable."
Deere is coming off of his third straight state tournament appearance where he finished a career best 22nd his junior year. For every year that he has played at state, Deere has continually improved his scores.
Deere's 22nd place finish had the senior just a few strokes shy of reaching all-state honors. Although it was a collapse in the last five holes that saw his score dip.
"It's because of last year that I was one over with five holes left and I finish double, double, bogey, bogey, bogey," Deere said. "I choked pretty bad. I wasn't too happy.
"I could have easily, by cleaning up a few errors, been in the top 10," Deere added. "So this year, I'm hoping for top 5. I know that I can. I'm just hoping to improve."
Along with Deere, Kirk Hoggatt, who was also a state tournament qualifier, is back for another year and continues to show improvement -- even as early as the first few Bulldog practices.
"One thing I see with Kirk is a lot more confidence in himself," Sikeston golf coach Andy McGill said. "I know it's early but, his average in practice is four to five strokes lower than it was last year. Hopefully, that will keep on throughout the year."
Conor MacGillivray, Ben Murray, Conner Landers and incoming freshman Gabe Wheeler are expected to round out Sikeston's top six.
All six of McGill's varsity squad are returning from last year after one first place finish as a team at the Poplar Bluff Invitational and three second place finishes which included taking the second place spot during their district tournament.
With this type of experience coming back, McGill is excited to see how his team competes within itself hoping that a bit of inner-squad competition breeds improvement.
"If they want to make that varsity squad it's going to take a push from everybody," McGill said. "We're going to have a lot of competition throughout our top six. Competition will breed more competition and hopefully that will get everyone going."
One challenge the Bulldogs will have to overcome this season is not having a course to call their own.
After the closure of the Sikeston Country Club, the Bulldogs were forced to move to the Sikeston Bootheel Golf Course. Although some are familiar with the course, the 18-hole course will not serve as a destination for their home meets. All of Sikeston's matches will be away.
"We have two guys on the team that are members out here and I'd say that all the guys are familiar with it," McGill said. "It's a different situation for us but it's something that we will have to adapt to and overcome.
"We are at a disadvantage, but at the same time we still have a facility to practice on."
Sikeston's first match will be on Monday in Malden.