After narrowly missing a regional bid last season, the Hillsdale men’s golf team is already setting their sights on this year’s regional and national tournaments.
The golf team is returning a dozen players after graduating just one senior, Pat Nalepa. The Chargers’ returning squad includes six sophomores and six juniors, but lacks a senior class.
“We’re sad to lose a great teammate and leader,” head coach Nate Gilchrist said of Nalepa. “He was a leader on the golf course and in the classroom, and a great example for the underclassmen.”
Sophomores Pietila and Purslowe will serve as captains this season.
“They were the leaders last year on the golf course consistently and I expect the same of them,” Gilchrist said.
The team has no seniors, but Gilchrist said he believes the juniors and the team captains will step into leadership roles.
Three new players will join the team this fall: George Roberts of Hampshire, England, Ryan Zetwick of Castle Rock, Colorado, and Sutton Dunwoodie of Alpharetta, Georgia.
“We gained three good players that should be able to add to the team,” Hitt said. “We practiced with Ryan, and he’s got a good swing and can shoot some good scores. He should be a good asset for us.”
Hitt added that Roberts and Dunwoodie are also talented players, who will add depth to the team.
The squad currently has 15 players, but the varsity roster must be narrowed to 12 for competition. A 72-hole qualifier — played on Sept. 5 through 9 — will determine the dozen players who make the cut.
Gilchrist said the team has depth and strong players from top to bottom. He said he believes the freshmen will challenge the upperclassmen and create a competitive environment.
Those who don’t make it on the varsity team will still have the opportunity to practice, improve, and attempt to qualify in the future.
Logan Kauffman said the qualifier is a good chance to see who has improved over the summer and to gauge the skill of the freshmen. He said he practiced six days a week, played 18 holes most days, and played 36 holes once a week in order to get in shape for this season.
Once the roster is finalized, five players will travel for tournaments. This five-member lineup will change throughout the year.
Kauffman said he traveled to tournaments last season, but sometimes missed the cut to compete.
“The team is deep, so there are people to take spots,” Kauffman said. “At times it’s definitely not fun to stay home, but it’s nice to have those guys that can take your place.”
As a team, Gilchrist said he hopes they can average 295 as a team and take home a few tournament victories. He said last year the squad averaged around 298 — a score that is often not low enough to claim the top spot at a tournament.
Hitt discussed his individual goals: “I had a strong fall last year, and I’d like to repeat that and improve on it at the same time. I want to consistently play well. It’s golf — you’re not going to play well everyday, but I want to be happy with the way I’m swinging the club.”
The team will practice at Coldwater Golf Course, Hillsdale Golf and Country Club, and Bella Vista.
The Chargers will play their first tournament on Sept. 17 and 18.