A successful 2014 Creston/Orient-Macksburg golf season was celebrated Sunday in a brief, informal postseason dessert banquet at Crestmoor Golf Club.
Among the highlights noted by head coach Jan Lesan was the state runner-up finish by the Panther boys team, one year after many of the same players were part of a Class 3A championship.
Seniors Carson Whittington and Hunter Sickels; juniors Christian Groumoutis, Sam Hartsock and Coleton Hoepker; and freshman Kyle Somers formed the postseason lineup that survived sectional (third place) and district (runner-up by one stroke) competition to make it back to Ames Golf and Country Club for state tournament play.
Different players sparked the team along each step, which Lesan said made it a pleasure to watch them compete.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Lesan said. “It’s a bunch of guys who live this game. I never once had to push anybody to come out to this course and practice. It didn’t matter what weather we were having. They’d be out there. They went out and competed and relied on each other. It truly was a team.”
The leader was Whittington, a four-time placewinner who won the 3A individual title as a junior. However, an example of Lesan’s comments about helping each other came about when the Panthers won their third straight Hawkeye 10 crown at Denison.
Whittington was unable to play at the last minute because of illness. Hartsock stepped into the lineup and paced the Panthers with a fourth-place round of 75 as Creston/O-M beat Harlan by seven strokes with a score of 308.
Four Panthers placed in the top nine of that tournament, without Whittington.
Many times, Creston/O-M’s JV outscored an opponent’s varsity in dual meets.
At the state tournament, Hoepker and Groumoutis improved by a combined six strokes from the opening day as the Panthers held off Webster City for second place by two strokes.
“That’s what makes a team,” Lesan said.
Whittington (Kirkwood Community College) and Sickels (Central College) are planning to continue their careers. Other seniors were Evan Nielsen and Maxx Walters.
The four returning state meet players plus junior letterman Jaaron Kautz and freshman Michael Stults return in 2015.
The girls team also had different leaders throughout the season. In the postseason it was sophomore Madison Hance, who tied for medalist at the Oskaloosa regional with an 87 to qualify for the girls state tournament. Another sophomore, Camryn Somers, was only three strokes off state qualification with a 91.
At state, Hance tied for 31st in Class 4A with rounds of 101 and 98 for a total score of 199.
The Panther girls were fourth at the Hawkeye 10 Tournament, led by Hance in 11th place with a 93. It was a tough conference, with Atlantic and Kuemper Catholic finishing first and second in the 3A state tourney.
Sarah Waigand, a leader for the Panthers in several early meets, and Ryan Vasquez were the lone seniors on a girls team that’s also building for success, Lesan said. Returnees besides Somers and Hance include junior Hannah Hagle and sophomore Shelby Palser.
If incoming freshmen or new recruits can fill out the roster, Lesan sees a bright future for both the girls and boys teams.
“We have a lot of talent coming back for the boys team and we anticipate being back at state,” Lesan said. “For the girls, we’d like to get there as a team, as well. We want both groups competing at that level.”
The last Creston girls team to play at state was in 1999, when Leanne Owens took sixth place individually. She went on to play at Iowa State and now coaches the Drake University women’s team. A year later, Heidi Calvin represented the Panthers at state. That was the last Panther girl at state before Hance’s performance this year.
Lesan said there is an opportunity this summer to continue working with Mark Egly of Des Moines Driving Range. He was named Iowa PGA Teacher of the Year in 2013, 2011, 2006 and 2002.
Actually, Creston/O-M golf isn’t finished for the season. Whittington and Hance will form one team, and Sickels and Waigand the other, in the State 2A Co-ed Tournament Tuesday in Boone.
The team of Calvin and T.J. Redding placed fourth in that tournament for Creston in 2000.
Seniors — Evan Nielsen (4), Hunter Sickels (4), Ryan Vasquez (1), Sarah Waigand (4), Maxx Walters (4), Carson Whittington (4).
Juniors — Christian Groumoutis (3), Hannah Hagle (1), Sam Hartsock (3), Coleton Hoepker (3), Jaaron Kautz (1).
Sophomores — Madison Hance (2), Shelby Palser (2), Camryn Somers (1).
Freshmen — Kyle Somers (1).
Participation award — Michael Stults, freshman.