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Van Veen, Mustangs in search of elusive state title

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:28 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013 12:00 p.m. CST
(Shane Lucas/Daily News)
PCM senior Hunter Van Veen tees off during the Class 2A No. 3 Mustangs' home meet on April 22 at Gateway Recreation in Monroe. Van Veen enters this weekend's state tournament ranked third as an individual in Class 2A.

At the end of every golf season at Gateway Recreation in Monroe, it is fair to assume most of the course’s wear and tear came from the Prairie City-Monroe boys golf team.

After practicing through the bad weather at the beginning of the season and compiling an eye-popping 86-2 record in the regular season, the Mustangs will start anew at the state golf meet at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore today and tomorrow.

“All of us are out here until dark every night working, and that’s just how the guys are on this team,” said senior Hunter Van Veen, who enters the meet ranked No. 3 as an individual in Class 2A. “It’s pretty great having guys like that, as well as having Coach Smith with me the whole way and the good support from the towns.”

Class 2A No. 3 PCM will be making its fifth appearance at the meet in the past six years, having most recently won the team title in 2008. Van Veen will become a four-time qualifier when he tees off today, and he will have the individual state title on his mind after taking seventh in 2011 and 14th in 2012. As a team, PCM was third in 2012, second in 2010 and missed the team cut in 2011.

“The kids are playing really good right now, and this is something we’ve been shooting for all spring,” PCM coach Mike Smith said. “We’ve reach our goal to get there, so now I’m trying to stress going out there, having some fun and seeing what happens.”

Aside from the third-ranked Van Veen, PCM is also sporting ranked golfers in juniors Devon Woody (No. 13), Justin Beener (No. 25), Ryan Jennings (No. 42) and senior Michael Neff (No. 43). They can expect some stiff competition from Waterloo Columbus Catholic, the defending state champs that bring back three players from last year, as well as familiar foe South Hamilton, which sports the top-ranked Trevor Ullestad.

As for Spring Valley itself, the Mustangs have the advantage of playing it last season and learning some of the ins-and-outs of what is considered one of the best courses in the state. Although they had a good idea of what to expect, the Mustangs gave the course one final walkthough Thursday before teeing off Friday.

“There are some holes where you have to hit 225-foot shots,” Van Veen said. “You’ve got to hit the fairway there because if you don’t, you’re going to be in some trouble. I’ve been out here the past few weeks practicing just to get mentally ready for this tournament.”

For any casual observer, it’s plain to see the Mustangs stay plenty loose throughout the season and genuinely have fun playing the game. Because of the stress and pressure state can bring, Smith is preaching to his team to keep that attitude throughout the weekend.

With the team’s record of success at state and surplus of leadership from top to bottom, the Mustangs are hoping this can be the year to repeat what happened in 2008.

“We’ve had some really good senior leadership come through here the last three or four years, and these kids get close out here,” Smith said. “We’ll spend hours here in practice, and then you’ll see them all going back out onto the course. The future is bright here, and it’s because of what these kids have done. That trickles down a lot further than people know.”

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