Four varsity players return for Seneca one year removed from a banner boys golf season that included an 11-1 Interstate Eight Conference record and a sectional berth.
Junior Ben Rohder and senior Conlan Callahan are the likely Nos. 1 and 2 golfers for the Fighting Irish. Rohder was a 2012 Morris Daily Herald All-Area selection, averaging under 45 strokes per nine holes. Callahan was an honorable mention All-Area pick and averaged a shade over 46 strokes per nine holes.
This summer, Rohder says he has played two or three rounds per week, on average, and there are signs of improvement in his game.
“They’re better than they were last year,” Rohder said of his scores. “They’ve not been the greatest, but it’s below bogey golf.”
Callahan says he was able to play about once, maybe twice, per week over the summer.
“I would come out (to Nettle Creek Country Club) with my dad in the evenings and just pitch and putt,” Callahan said. “Individually, I want to keep my composure and just get better. Golf is a tough game, and I want to play with good etiquette and become a better player. As a team, we were able to get out of a regional last year and had a good showing at the sectional, so we’ll try to build on that.”
Three other seniors – Alex Bott, Clayton Cole and Brenden Tisler – are on the roster, which otherwise consists of underclassmen. Coach Bryan Erickson says sophomores Dan Armstrong and Wyatt Quigley and freshmen Jacob Bruce and Auston Jashari are fighting for varsity spots. Sophomores Matt Anderson, Beau Carpenter and Michael Isham and freshman Sean Baker round out the roster.
“I feel our Nos. 1 and 2 players will be very consistent on a day-to-day basis, but there are questions about the consistency of our three through six players,” Erickson said. We may have to count on a couple of underclassmen to score for us occasionally.
“We are excited about our young core of golfers, which bodes well for the future of our program.”
In four seasons under Erickson, the Irish are 42-30 overall, but last year’s advancement out of their own Class 1A regional was a first since he succeeded Jeff Stenzel. Continued postseason and conference success is a priority for Erickson.
“One goal for this year will be to qualify for the sectional a second year in a row,” Erickson said. “I feel that we are one of the top four teams in our conference and we should be very competitive.”
For Erickson, the times the Irish will play Coal City, like a triangular next Wednesday that includes Morris, are extra special because his children, senior Alyssa and freshman Collin, play for the Coalers. Every I-8 match will be a bit different this year than in the past, he says.
“I am also looking forward to the new conference format, where varsity players earn points for each head-to-head conference match,” Erickson said. “The match points are combined with conference tournament points, which will determine All-Conference honors. I think the new format will increase the competitiveness throughout the conference, which should make for an interesting year.”