Based on the fact that there were five North Shore Conference boys golf teams in the top nine of the 20-plus team Washington County Invitational on April 16 and how competitive they were against each other in the first NSC mini meet at Tripoli on April 18, this league race is clearly going to be up for grabs this spring.
'That is the interesting dynamic of team high school golf,' Whitefish Bay coach Frank Donadio, whose team edged Nicolet by one shot in the mini-meet. 'Every player must learn to grind it out, focus and concentrate on every hole. It is a process. A one-putt par or bogey 'save' on an early hole can be the difference in any match. I expect the close competition will continue throughout our conference season — something all coaches look forward to.'
And others are in agreement in that thought.
'We feel good,' said Nicolet coach Dan Gibbon, whose team had three strong invite efforts in the first full week of action, 'but the conference is just so tough. This was state-level competition, and it was good to see that the guys did not feel that they were intimidated.'
And Homestead coach Steve O'Brien knows that his defending champion team will be the hunted this spring.
'As a coach, I am happy to see the competition within the team. It will make us better as the season progresses,' he said. 'We have some serious work to do in order to reach our goals, but I am confident that our team will work very hard to be their best.'
Everyone will have to be at their best in the North Shore Shore this year based on the results of the first league mini meet. Bay turned in a score of 160 for the win, while Nicolet carded a 161, Cedarburg was third with 162 and Homestead fourth at 163.
Returning WIAA state individual fourth-place finisher Patrick Sicula of Bay tied with Nicolet's Ben Spector and a Cedarburg golfer for top honors at the mini meet with a nine-hole score of 37.
Donadio said it was every bit as close as it looked on the scoreboard.
'One player's first hole and one player's last hole helped push us up to first place,' he said. 'Both players eagled the par five eighth hole. I did not witness either eagle, as I was following other players at the time. On Teddy Weber's first hole, he holed out a sand wedge from inside 60 yards for his eagle 3. Near the end of the day, Patrick Sicula, playing his last hole, reached the par 5 green in two shots and made a 7-foot putt for his eagle 3.'
Donadio will build around Sicula and fellow seniors seniors Weber, Carter Heston, Jake Brewster, Jack and Friesch, along with juniors Jack DeRoche and Gunnar Butz and sophomores Gus Grunau and Matthew Comiskey.
In his last year, Donadio is pleased with the turnout (32 players), who braved what he called 'winter-like' conditions during the try-out period.
'Our enthusiasm for the season start-up remained high as the weather became more tolerable,' he said. 'We also have a strong contingent of JV players, and we could have added up to five more players to the varsity roster. There probably will be some call-ups during the season as younger players compete during their JV competitions.'
At the mini meet, Weber finished with a 38, while Grunau came in with a 42, and DeRoche and Heston each carded 43s.
Bay was fifth in the 28-team County meet with an 18-hole score of 311, while Marquette won with a 291 and Cedarburg was second with 305.
Sicula tied for second with a 71, while Weber came in with a 77.
For Nicolet, the Knights will try to build on their stunning WIAA sectional championship effort of a year ago.
Senior Ben Spector, who was third at that sectional, will move into the top spot as the Knights try to build back up from some steep graduation losses. He moves into the team's top spot, while other returnees include junior Eric Walsh and senior Michael Carruth.
Senior Will Egan, junior Augie Eurich and sophomore Thomas Kozlovsky will also vie for varsity time, Gibbon said.
'Ben was our solid third golfer all last year,' said Gibbon of Spector. 'What we need this year is for someone to step up to the level that Ben was at last year ... right now, we have some solid contributors. It's nice to see how they're responding.'
At Washington County, Nicolet was eighth with a 321 mark as Spector tied for fifth with a 73 and Walsh carded a 78. At the NSC mini meet, Carruth helped out with a 39.
Nicolet was also second at the Beaver Dam Invite on April 15 and third of 18 at the Sheboygan Falls Early Bird Invite on April 13.
'We have kids who are really motivated to continue the success,' Gibbon said.
For Homestead, it remains all about tradition, and he said he has a number of people willing to work to uphold it.
'We are all looking forward to get the season started,' he said. 'We have three golfers returning from last years team, which are Robbie Morway, Max Pasher and Joey Hobbs. We lose Charlie Maleki (now playing at Marquette) and Blake Anderson (attending Creighton University)
'We have five guys competing for the last two spots. Adam Morris, Matt Gresham, Tommy Kennedy, Ben Elchert and Joe Lappin. It could be a revolving door with these golfers. They are all working very hard to distinguish themselves as worthy of playing in varsity events.'
The Highlanders were sixth at County with a 317 mark, as Morway carded an 18-hole score of 77 and Pasher came in with a 79. At the NSC mini meet, Pasher was one shot behind the leaders with a 38, while Morway came in with a 39.