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Golf: Woodbury, East Ridge, New Life gear up for golf season

Woodbury's Aayushi Sarkar watches a drive off the No. 6 tee box on June 14 at last year's Class AAA girls’ state golf tournament. File photo1 / 3
East Ridge's Jordyn Ojeda tees off on the first hole at StoneRidge Golf Club in Stillwater. Ojeda shot a 78 on the course and East Ridge finished fifth with a 307 in an invitational last year. File photo2 / 3
New Life Academy's Cole Witherow shot a 67 on the second day of the Section 4AA tournament, and a 145 over both days, last year. File photo3 / 3

Woodbury

Boys

The Woodbury boys' golf team will look very similar to last year as the Royals bring back five starters from 2018.

Head coach Shawn Mahady is excited for the 2019 season because he has experience from returning starters and he has talent from both the older and younger players on the team.

"It's been great seeing these players start from where they left off last season," Mahady said. "I've been looking forward to the first few practices and I can't wait to get on the golf course this season."

Along with the veterans from last season, the Royals have a couple of middle school golfers in their program that have achieved some accolades this season. Mahady said he's excited to have them in the program and he knows they will continue carrying on the legacy of the program when the veterans graduate.

"We've already built that family aspect with how many players returned this season," said Ryan Muzzy. "We just hope to have a stronger season from last year, while enjoying the game of golf with every match we play."

Woodbury had a strong first day at sections last year, but just like many teams the consistency didn't carry into the second day. That hurt the Royals, so this season they are learning from last year and correcting it for this season.

They want to have a similar first day with strong games at all six positions, but the second day will have consistency from the first day. If the Royals are able to do that, the players believe they have a chance to end their spring strong.

"We just need to make sure we're playing our best golf at the end of the season in section play," said Willie Price. "I'm confident our guys learned from last season and will incorporate it into this year's play during the regular season and at sections."

Girls

It was a strong season for the Woodbury girls' golf team last year, and the Royals are looking to repeat it this season.

Woodbury finished the 2018 season at the state tournament as the Royals had a strong push in the second day of sections. Head coach Bryan Orlenko and the girls understand what it takes to get to state and they are pushing even harder to reach that point this season.

"Last year was a fun season concluding at the state tournament," Orlenko said. "Our girls are coming back this season and looking to not only reach state, but compete there as well."

Woodbury has many returners coming back this season and it starts with the leaders of the team, Maddi Hanson and Aayushi Sarkar. These two girls have been practicing in the dome and around different states to keep their swings intact throughout the cold winter season.

The two have not only grown as players, but they also believe they've grown more leadership skills this offseason. They hope that they can teach these younger players the traditions and legacies of the program.

"It's been fun getting out on the golf course early this season compared to last year," Hanson said. "Now, we just need to focus on getting better each day."

Woodbury starts the season ranked eighth overall in the state with a handful of its players ranked individually.

Sarkar discussed the difficulty of two days at sections and how consistency becomes the true way of reaching the state tournament. If teams can be consistent in scores on day one and two, they have a strong chance of continuing their season at state.

"It's difficult to repeat scores each day, which is why the second day can be difficult," Sarkar said. "We have learned from last season what those two days are like and we're ready to get back to that point again this season."

East Ridge

Boys

The East Ridge boys' golf team is looking to continue building from last season as head coach Bret Brookins hopes for the very best each time out.

"Most importantly, I want our guys to play their best golf," Brookins said. "If they do that, then I will be happy as a coach."

The Raptors will bring back four of their six starters from last season, but Brookins has been impressed by everyone's skills so early in the season.

Brookins said that many of the golfers were either at the dome swinging or played in leagues throughout the country. He knows that there will be plenty of competition all season long.

"I have three seniors that are returning on varsity and it's great to see their growth," Brookins said. "That growth is in both skills and leadership and it helps me because they understand the process. They want to continue on the legacy of this program and it shows each day in practice."

The goal for this season is to string two section days instead of one. Brookins said the first day went well for the Raptors last season, but the second day wasn't what they were hoping for.

The team wants to push and fight in that second day and try to earn a spot to state as a team. Brookins is fully confident this team has the talent and mindset to achieve these goals.

Girls

Head coach Kathy Madden is happy with the turnout for girls' golf at East Ridge as the numbers continue to rise. She knows that only helps the future of the program.

Similar to the boys' team, the girls are looking for consistency in both days of section play. For the seniors, they are looking to leave an impact on the program for future years to come.

"We learned about the golf program from the seniors when we were freshmen," said senior Kennedy Uzpen. "During our senior year, we want to make sure the younger girls understand what we were taught and that continues for years to come."

Madden will be looking to Uzpen and senior Lindsey Spolidoro for leadership on the course and at practices. Madden is confident these two girls will help the rest of the players as they prepare for a tough regular season.

The girls understand their conference and section is not the easiest to play in, but they are ready for the challenge.

"We can't wait to get out on the course and play strong golf," Spolidoro said. "We've been working hard these last couple of weeks at practice and hopefully it'll show in our first match of the season."

The first match is still to come for the Raptors and, until then, Madden is going to help the girls inside with skills and techniques in preparation for the season.

"I'm looking forward to this season," Madden said. "It should be a fun time with every girl competing hard each day."

New Life

Boys

The New Life boys' golf team will look to build off a strong season last year into the 2019 season.

"I'm excited to see so many people playing this season and continuing to build this program," said senior Jackson George. "We have some players coming back this season and I'm hoping that experience will help us throughout the season at different golf courses."

The goal this season is to have every player reach the second day of sections and compete hard in each match along the way.

Head coach Greg Tietz said he's excited to see the growth of his team because the boys had a strong push to conclude 2018. Now, the team is ready to make some strides in section play and end the season on a high note for these handful of seniors.

"This team has become a family during the offseason and into the first few practices this year," Tietz said. "It's been fun to see these players help each other with shots or yardages because you're already noticing they are improving each and every day."

Girls

The New Life girls' golf team has many new faces and a higher turnout from previous seasons. The program is continuing to grow and senior captains Claire Wallerick and Anna Bettmann are looking to make this season a memorable one.

"Each player is looking to improve from last season and the new girls have been wanting to learn every day," Wallerick said. "This should only help us when we start playing matches this season."

The Eagles graduated some golfers last season, but there are some young and talented golfers rising in the program. Tietz is confident this team will continue to compete in each match even though there has been some changes to the starting lineup.

Along with growing the younger golfers for this season, the senior captains hope to make sure they are ready once they graduate this year. They want the legacy of the program to grow from season to season.

"We've learned a lot from this golf program and we want to continue to see that when we graduate," Bettmann said. "I'm just looking forward to a fun season ahead."

Brian Mozey

I am the sports writer for the Woodbury Bulletin and South Washington County Bulletin. I'm a graduate from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University and have always had a passion for sports since a young age. Whether it was watching or playing sports, I always knew sports would be in my career. I've been born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and look forward to continuing to learn more about the Woodbury and Cottage Grove area throughout my time in this position. 

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