If expectations were high for the Prairie City-Monroe boys golf team last season, it might be hard to find a word to describe what they are this season.
Returning five of the six golfers from a team that placed third in the state in Class 2A last season, the Mustangs are approaching the upcoming season with just one goal on their minds — a state title.
"They definitely haven't changed a bit. Everybody got a real taste of what it was like last year, and our one goal is to get back and win it," PCM coach Mike Smith said. "Expectations are definitely high. The boys are ready to go out and do something."
Last season, the Mustangs returned to state as a team after missing out in 2011. Getting those jitters out of the way could help improve on last season's impressive third-place finish behind Columbus Catholic of Waterloo and Kuemper Catholic of Carroll.
"We kind of feel like we played decent last year, but everyone was a little overwhelmed on that first day because they didn't go the year before," Smith said. "Now that they know what to expect, I really think we'll be someone to reckon with."
Needing no introduction and leading PCM into its title hunt is senior Hunter Van Veen, who is easily among the top individuals in Class 2A. Van Veen qualified with the Mustangs in 2010 and 2012 and went to state as an individual in 2011, but Smith says he’s on a mission playing with something of a chip on his shoulder this year after placing 14th individually last season.
“He’s definitely going to be one of the top contenders in 2A,” Smith said. “His game continues to get better and he puts in the hours and the work, so there’s not much else I can say that I haven’t already said watching him develop. It’s going to be fun watching him this year and seeing if he can reach that pinnacle.”
Joining Van Veen are his same teammates from last year in Michael Neff, Devon Woody, Ryan Jennings and Justin Beener.
Smith says there are around four contenders for the final spot left vacant by graduated senior Logan Van Veen.
However, with the chemistry and light-hearted attitude the team displays at practice, this year could simply be a case of “next man in.”
“All last summer, those kids were out playing golf, and they know they have another crack at it this spring,” Smith said of the returning players. “So far, even with how the weather has been, they’ve been out here playing. They’re ready to go and they’ve seen what happens when you put the time and effort in.”
Although the Mustangs are very much in the picture for a title, they’ll certainly have some tough competition along the way. South Hamilton could give PCM a run for the Heart of Iowa Conference title with three returning players, and both Columbus and Kuemper return plenty from their teams that finished first and second, respectively.
Smith isn’t waiting around to see that competition, however. The Mustangs have numerous tough road meets on their schedule and will travel to Moravia for an 18-team invitational at the end of the month that will feature not only the top teams in Class 2A, but the whole state.
“We’ve got a couple good 18-hole tournaments this year,” Smith said. “It’s not like Hunter’s going to go down there and just walk through it. We’ll need to beat some of the top teams in the state, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
First thing’s first, though. PCM is scheduled to open its season today at Harvest Point Golf Course against Lynnville-Sully and Eddyville-Blakesburg.
Sports Editor Shane Lucas may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 432, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.