Since winning the MIAA championship in 2012, the MSJ Varsity Golf Team has not come close to the top of the conference for a little over 5 years. Going on year number 6 without a championship, the 2018-2019 season could be the year where things turn around for the Gaels. Led by Head Coach Mike Dooley, there are a lot of returning players and new talent coming in, making the expectations pretty high for this upcoming season. This gave me an opportunity to dig deeper into the subject and find out how the team feels about this fast approaching season.
The coaching staff look to be holding high hopes for the upcoming season, and sees the team “competing for one of the top spots in the league,” said assistant coach of the varsity team Ed Schultheis. Ryan Schmitz, a senior golfer on the team, seems to hold parallel expectations stating that, “With the returning players and the new talent coming in this year, the team is going to have a lot of opportunities to win a lot of matches this season.” If the players and coaches stay on the same page throughout the season and execute game plans during matches, it appears that the Gaels could potentially be putting “2019” on the MIAA championship banner in the Smith Center at the end of the season.
With high expectations on the season comes high expectations for the players to perform. Coach Schultheis has high hopes for the play of all members of the team but none as high as the expectations of the “undisputed number 1” golfer on the St. Joe team, Ryan Schmitz.
The reason for having such expectations is because Ryan played at the number 1 spot last season going toe to toe with the best players in the MIAA and held his own. Being a leader as a junior last season has done nothing except prepare Ryan to lead his team as a senior this year and he seems ready for the challenge. Schmitz’s coming up from JV to a Varsity leader has been a long road with a lot of hard work. However, Ryan said his game really began to change when he joined Crofton Country Club. “Once I became a member at Crofton, this gave me an opportunity to work with a lot of Division I golfers and improve my game,” Schmitz said. Ryan expects nothing short of a successful season because of his hard work and experience at Crofton so far; and believes he will win a lot of his matches, hopefully leading the team to victory.
Even though the majority of the success is going to come from the players executing, a large part of the team’s success is going to be coming from the coaching aspect and how the coaches can put the players in a position to win. Ryan believes the way the coaches are going to be able to do is how the match lineups are handled, saying that “likely, the top two spots in the lineup are going to be a lock all season, so where the coaches can make a huge impact is how they handle the 3-6 spots in the lineup.” These 4 spots are a toss up between a lot of players, but Coach Schultheis says this is likely what is going to happen this year; “Ben Lindner, Ronak Patel, and Reese Tydings project as potential pairings in the top spot next to Schmitz, though there is always the chance someone else will surprise us and earn that second spot in the lineup.” If these three players can make an improvement in their play, it will drastically change the dynamic of the match slotting, for the good.
Another way that the coaches can make a big impact is how they learn their players’ strengths and weaknesses and being able to help their players work on those weaknesses to round out the team’s performance. For Coach Dooley and Coach Schultheis, this means that there is always room for improvement and once as coaches, they identify the player’s weakness and show the player a way to fix it, “it is up to the player to put in the time and effort on the side to work at improving.” A big reason as to why it is a big deal to put in effort outside of the team events to improve is because of how the matches are scheduled. “The matches are so compacted in the schedule that it makes changes difficult in a short period of time,” said Coach Schultheis. Because these matches are so tightly scheduled, it is difficult to get out as a team and practice often. So, practicing outside of the team practices and putting in extra work is really going to help this team win a potential championship in 2019.
Getting out and practicing outside of team practices can only help and that is why it will be a key to success this season. However, there are multiple things that will need to fall into place for this team to win the conference. Coach Schultheis expresses, “We need someone to come back from the off-season and seriously have improved their play.” If any of these players, whether it be a returning player or an incoming freshman, can step up and improve their play drastically, there is no telling what this team is capable of. If everyone can play at a high level consistently, the lineup will improve from top to bottom which will help the team win a lot of matches.
Overcoming a lot of adversity and challenging matches during the season is going to be a large part of success, says Coach Schultheis. With teams like Loyola and St. Paul’s always at the top of the league, there are going to be teams like Gilman and Calvert Hall who will be sneaky good teams to look out for. Also, do not count out Spalding or McDonogh with young teams looking to climb to the top of the conference. “Any of the teams really could make a run over the short MIAA season, but I think we can hold our own if we get the type of play Coach Dooley and I are expecting.” So, with all of these small keys to having a special season, it all revolves around the major goal of getting off to a hot start and staying hot throughout the season with everyone playing to their potential.
There have been multiple years of rebuilding for the Gaels in recent history and this could be the year where things change for the team. If everyone plays to their potential consistently, this year could be a special way to leave the program for the seniors and a great way to start or continue a varsity career for the underclassmen. Expectations are running high from both perspectives of the coaches and players and now only one question remains. Is an MIAA conference championship in store for the 2019 Golf Gaels? Only time will tell, but certainly, there is reason to be hopeful this season.
In a match against Calvert Hall, played at Eagle’s Nest Country Club, Ryan Schmitz found himself in a small stream on the 10th hole. That didn’t stop him from hitting up just off the green with his second shot.