Longtime Chi-Hi boys golf coach Rick Silloway has pretty much seen it all in his 32 years leading the Cardinal program.
That is, until this spring.
Mother Nature’s lingering winter fury has wreaked havoc on the spring prep sports schedule and perhaps no sport has felt the impact more than boys golf. All teams have mostly been confined indoors as the snow and cold weather have stuck around but the Cardinals have been limited to short-range putting, chipping and hitting activities, a far cry from the long-distance game they’ll be playing once the season arrives.
“We can work on swings (in practice) but until the kid sees the ball going out away from him a bit, that’s a big part of it. It’s just so hard to do the right thing with their swing at this point and believe that’s what it’s going to take,” Silloway said.
The Cardinals return a trio of golfers from last year’s team that finished fifth in the Big Rivers Conference standings and at Division 1 regionals with seniors Eric Ottevaere and Bryce Elkin to go with junior Alex Nelson.
Nelson took 10th at last spring’s Big Rivers Conference tournament and tied with Ottevaere for 24th at regionals with Elkin close behind in 30th.
Behind those three an intriguing group of veterans and youngsters will be vying for the final varsity spots. Senior Cole Oliver, sophomores Collin Albright and Ian Olson as well as freshmen Brett Elkin, Aiden McCauley, Carter Katz and Jack Meyer will all battle for playing time.
“It’s obvious that we’re looking for a No. 4 and 5 man,” Silloway said. “We have two guys that played (JV) last year, so we’re looking at them. And we have a couple freshmen that are a possibility, so that’s hopeful.”
They’ll be tasked with stepping in for graduated seniors Chase Hoople and Taylor Hakes. Hoople was a first team All-Big Rivers Conference player a season ago while both Hoople and Hakes advanced to sectionals individually.
Silloway believes his team can be in the hunt in the conference race, but thinks that Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North could be the favorites entering the season. The Old Abes won the conference team championship a season ago while the Huskies tied with River Falls for second place in the league standings.
The first six tournaments of the spring for the Cardinals have already been postponed, including the team’s annual Chi-Hi invitational which was set for Saturday at Lake Wissota Golf Course.
“I think the toughest part of the whole thing is its depressing,” Silloway said. “The other part of it is to keep these guys up while I’m feeling down. To keep them going and to keep them coming to practice when you’re hitting the ball 10 feet in front of you.”
For now, the schedule for the Cardinals is set to begin on Tuesday, April 24 with a Big Rivers Conference meet hosted by Eau Claire Memorial at Wild Ridge Golf Course in Eau Claire. If many of those postponements are rescheduled, it could make for a busy month of May for the Cardinals leading into regionals, this year taking place on May 22 at Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson.
“I hope that those three seniors will help us keep focused and keep going in the direction we’re supposed to go,” Silloway said.