JEWELL - There's an old sports cliche that goes something like this: Second place is nothing but the first loser.
It's crude. It's unfair. But, at its core, it's reality.
That's pretty much the mind-set the South Hamilton boys' golf team takes to the Class 2A state tournament, which begins today at noon at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore. With their entire roster back from last year's third-place team, the Hawks are single-minded in what will constitute a satisfactory conclusion to the season.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
The South Hamilton boys’ golf team will be out to improve upon its third-place finish from last season when it competes in the Class 2A?state tournament Friday and Saturday at Spring Valley Golf Course in Livermore. Team members include (front, left to right) Jordan Sogard, Austin Heeren, Max McGonigle, (back) Braxton Risetter, Jacob Haugland and Trevor Ullestad.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
"Yes, I think we can win it," sophomore Braxton Risetter said. "There are a lot of good teams there, but we have the potential to do it, and if we play well I really think we'll be in contention."
The players take their cues from head coach Mark Ullestad, who has spent years grooming this crop of talents - seniors Jordan Sogard, Austin Heeren and Max McGonigle; junior Jacob Haugland; and sophomore Trevor Ullestad complete the group - for this very moment.
"We want to do better than last year, so that's either first or second, and I'd rather get first than second," Mark Ullestad said. "I would be happy with second, but would I also be a little disappointed? Yes, because I've know these guys since they were knee high and we knew this would be the year if we were going to do it. But it's not going to be handed to us."
Three-time defending 2A champion Carroll Kuemper returns three players off last year's team, including the highest returning finisher - senior Tanner Ludwig, who was fifth in 2011 on the same 6,421-yard, par-72 layout that fans have dubbed Little Augusta.
Waterloo Columbus, last year's runner-up, brings back five of its six sticks from a year ago. However, the Sailors lost Adam Squires, the 2011 state medalist by five shots, to graduation.
South Hamilton finished 50 shots behind Kuemper last spring, and a second-day balloon of 18 shots ended any chance the Hawks had of competing for the title. And the players know it will take much better scores to hoist the hardware following Saturday's second and final round, which will get underway at 8 a.m.
"If we want to win it we'll probably have to shoot under 315 both days," Trevor Ullestad, the Hawks' No. 1 player, said. "But we haven't peaked yet and we're going to try to do that at Spring Valley."
Sogard was the team's top finisher a season ago in 14th, and he was the only player to lower his score in Round 2. Risetter tied for 21st, Trevor Ullestad sat alone in 34th, Haugland shared 35th, Heeren tied for 38th, and McGonigle was 58th.
The team averaged five shots higher per player over the final 18 holes last year, and that can't happen again, the coach says.
"We know it's going to take two days of knuckling down and playing well for 36 holes," Mark Ullestad said. "We also know that we don't have one or two guys that can shoot a 72, but I've got four or five that can shoot 77. I'll take four 77s and take my chances."
Prairie City-Monroe also figures into the mix, as the Mustangs have consistently bettered South Hamilton in head-to-head battles this season, including at the Heart of Iowa Conference tournament earlier this month.
PCM is led by junior Hunter Van Veen, the reigning HOIC champion and last year's sixth-place state finisher when he qualified as an individual.
"(Class) 2A is a tough, tough class this year," Mark Ullestad said. "We've beaten 3A teams all year, but 2A is just as deep, if not deeper this year. We're probably the fourth best team coming in, but anything can happen."