KALIDA — Tradition can be a great motivator.
After making state in 2016, this year’s Wildcats wanted to keep that custom going but the returning players knew it was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication even before the season started if they were going to reach this lofty goal.
With the lone senior Josh Klausing leading the way, the close knit group practiced throughout the summer and all the time at the course paid off with a second straight trip to the District III state tournament.
“We are all a real close group,” Klausing said. “We hang out a lot and we would call each other a lot over the summer. We would call and text each other and say ‘hey let’s go out and play.’ I thought if we kept up what we did over the summer we would do pretty well during the summer.”
For head coach Ken Schnipke, he admits we wasn’t totally shocked by his team’s second straight trip to state because he expects his team to perform at a high level and so he said it wasn’t as big a surprise as some might have thought because of the tradition of Wildcat golf.
“Everybody said we shouldn’t have done what we did but I just thought that is what we do,” Schnipke said. “I think it feeds from year to year. Maybe they expect that from themselves too.”
At the onset of the season the Wildcats were posting early tournament victories with junior Christian Nartker leading the way. As most seasons go, Kalida had its ups and downs but started to hit its stride at the onset of preseason.
Schnipke said the success by Nartker in the opening tournaments set a winning attitude early for the Wildcats.
“Christian started out really good and I think that helped the rest of the team,” Schnipke said. “We are young with just one senior, one junior, a couple of sophomores and freshman and so we don’t have anybody at depth play.”
One of the reasons for the team’s last surge has been the emergence of Klausing in the latter part of the year and so when Nartker’s scores went higher, Klausing’s scores were there to pick up the strokes.
“I guess it was probably the last three weeks when Josh Klausing started understanding his swing better and what he needed to do to hit it where he wanted to hit it,” Schnipke said. “He came down from 81s and 82s to 75s, 76s and 77s.”
Not to be overlooked were the contributions of sophomores Josh Recker sand Alec Edelbrock and freshman Luke Erhart . At the Putnam County League tournament, Klausing fired a 73 and Recker posted a 77 with Nartker recording an 86.
After winning the PCL, the Wildcats followed it up with a second place showing at sectionals. Klausing was the medalist with a 76 and Recker followed with an 80 with Edelbrock posting an 87 and Erhart and Nartker coming in with 89s.
At district, Nartker bounced back with a 76 and Klausing came in with a 77. Recker produced an 87 and the freshman Erhart had an 86. Elerbrock notched a 91.
Schnipke said the battle cry during the postseason has been play smart and keep your composure and the Kalida head coach added that the team has adhered to these standards.
“Josh Recker is capable of shooting in the 70s anytime too and I don’t think he realizes how could he can really be and Luke, being a freshman, and Alec, playing for the first time competition wise, held their own.”
Schnipke said despite their age, this is a mature group that has stepped up to the challenge.
“I’m always preaching act like a gentlemen and I really believe that helps your golf game as far as not getting carried away and throwing some bad holes in consecutively.”
Kalida will need to take some of that composure and along with their skill if they are going to vie for a state title. At districts, Kalida fired a 326 to finish second behind an impressive outing by Van Buren that posted a 303.
Even though that is 23 strokes better than what the Wildcats’ score, Schnipke said anything can happen at state and he feels his team can compete for a state title.
“Going in to district I was hoping they could keep it in the 330 range and that would give us a chance to get out,” Schnipke said. “When you get to the last couple of holes the golfers start looking at their score but we did a good job of not doing that and coming home strong.”
One might think Schnipke really puts the guys through some rigorous practice but it is just the opposite as the Kalida head coach eases up a little and said the team knows what to expect at this point.
Schnipke added that one person came up to him and said ‘why not you guys winning state’ and he has shared that with his team, telling them they can bring home a state title.
“We’ve been throwing that saying around a little bit,” Schnipke said. “Just go down and have fun. They are going to put pressure on themselves already so try to relax, play and see what happened.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1