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Union golf teams tee up for improved 2019 seasons

March 29, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Girls head coach: Mel Barz, Boys head coach: Ryan Slater

The 2018 season was quite unique for the state of Iowa with weather postponing golf meets week after week, and Union golf was not spared the cold, wet conditions that forced course like in La Porte City to reschedule. Amid a chaotic season, the boys battled for their conference while a young girls team continued to improve in each meet. This season, both teams have their sights aimed higher and hope the weather is far more kind going forward.

The girls team last season placed seventh out of nine teams at conference and did not fare well at 3A regionals to end their season. Union will move back down to 2A competition this postseason with 11 girls out, which coach Mel Barz hopes will help the team get back on track in 2019.

Article Photos

Front row: Cayden Thiele, Jackson Slater, Lincoln Mehlert, Devin Reel, Brandon Goodwin, Kaleb Roach, Josef Schmitz, TJ Freeland, Nolan Miehe. Middle Row: Lane Hennings, Michael Niebergall, Ben Behrens, Jacob Lowe, Ian Gleason, Tyler Severtsgaard, Coach Ryan Slater. Back Row: Wesley Thiele, Trevor Davis, Brandon Stech, Caleb Reel, Nolan Wandschneider, Aidan Wilson, Clayton Sparks, Danny Petersen, Adyn Schmuecker. Not pictured: Grant Behrens and Gage Wilson. Photo by Dustin Dawson, Vinton Newspapers

"The team last year was all freshmen and sophomores and for half of them golf was completely new," Barz said. "Even those who'd played before did not have much experience, so we worked a lot on the basics. Weather rescheduled our first eight meets. Once we had meets, we didn't get as much time to practice. Hopefully the weather will stay good and we can be consistent with our practices this year."

Three varsity girls from last season-Brystal Bergmeier, Kaylin Brustkern and Sydney Bucknell-all ended last year with low scores and Barz feels they have the potential to be the leaders each time out and be medalists for a team which is still very young.

"They've gained a lot in the short time they've been playing," Barz said. "I foresee them continuing to improve. We haven't seen much of the younger players to say who is up and coming quite yet."

Bergmeier went out for golf last season to enjoy the sport, which she's watched many people play after high school and for the rest of their lives. The junior saw her share of struggles last season as worked to learn the sport with limited practice time while also competing with a team made up of only underclassmen.

"It was a rough season at the beginning for me, but I knew I had to stay calm and focus after each hole, no matter how I did," Bergmeier said. "If I had a bad hole, I learned to move on. Our team went through the same rough season, but we stuck through it and finished strong."

Along with Brustkern, Bergmeier know she has to take on a leadership role with a team of many new faces, who just like her once are unfamiliar with the sport and are bound to make mistakes along the way as they compete in La Porte City and courses throughout the NICL East.

"Some of these girls are newcomers who have never golfed before, so we're excited to see what they have to offer the team," Bergmeier said. "As a returning player, I have to not be frustrated with my performances and to make sure the newcomers don't get as frustrated as I did last year. "I want them to know it's okay to make mistakes. The main thing is to not get frustrated because it will only make things worse for you and your teammates."

Barz notes that the returning varsity players improved on their short game due to the La Porte City course being tough specifically in the short game. While putting and chipping will need to improve, the third-year coach feels confidence is the biggest area the team can improve in to see scores rise and achieve their goals this season.

"Personally, my goal is to have us win some of these meets," Barz said. "Each year, we have won one or two meets, and I think we can easily do that against conference competition. Improving our overall game is our biggest goal, to see those scores go up."

The boys golf team enjoyed more success last season with senior Kyle Cowell and then-sophomore Caleb Reel leading the way for the Knights in a competitive conference. Union took several meets, but feel short of Cowell qualifying for State or winning the conference.

"Our regular season went pretty well as we met some of our goals with around a .700 win record, had a player finished second in our conference," Slater said. "We wanted to get three of the top eight, but had a few guys finish just outside."

Though Cowell has graduated, the Union boys have a mix of classes this season, including seven freshman coming in who are athletic in other sports, according to Slater. Experienced veterans, such as Reel, return this season having played a lot of golf over the years and are hungry for more this season.

"I feel like I fell short at the conference meet because we had a big chance to put up a score and I had a double boogie on the last hole," Reel said. "I would have medaled, but I'm ready to bounce back this year for the team. I feel we only lost one key component in Kyle Cowell and everyone is back to have a shot this year at conference."

Slater believes his top three "are pretty much set" and is looking for people to move into the fourth, fifth and sixth varsity spots to compete in the NICL.

"We have maybe ten kids really competing for those lower three varsity spots," Slater said. "Right now, it's wide open. Caleb Reel has a chance to break the record for most medals won over his last two seasons. Lincoln Mehlert is a sophomore that shows a lot of promise."

With a solid core of returning players to lead younger players vying for a varsity spot, Slater hopes to improve on the team's overall putting and see Union place three golfers in the top eight at conference this year.

"We want to be competitive in conference, win at a place we shouldn't because of the competitive teams in this conference in Columbus, A-P and Dike-New Hartford," Slater said. "I'd be really happy with a 6-2 or 7-1 conference record before heading to conference with four guys ready to compete and put up great scores."

As a fresh year starts for Reel, he is ready to put his offseason work into use to help his team qualify for Districts and qualifying individually while being a teammate to look up to.

"I need to more of a leader this season," Reel said. "I want to help guide my team to victory, helping us keeping our mental game in check."

Both teams will begin their season at Denver on Tuesday, April 2 before returning home Friday, April 5 to host Aplington Parkersburg.



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