Blair Oaks golf team looks to turn corner

Year 1 of Blair Oaks golf ended with two golfers in the state tournament and the team barely missing out on qualifying for the sectional round.

There is optimism Year 2 could take things a little further.

“This year we’d like to see us turn that corner a little bit,” Blair Oaks coach Leroy Bernskoetter said as the Falcons prepare to open the season at 4 p.m. today at Linn.

With Levi Elder and Kory Franks leading the way, the Falcons were six shots away from qualifying for sectionals last season, finishing in fourth place behind Cuba, Eugene and Hermann.

Franks is back for his sophomore season. While Elder has graduated, his younger brother Tanner, who has had success in Lake Ozark Junior Golf Association events, is ready to step onto the varsity level as a freshman.

The combination of Franks and Elder at the front, to go along with senior Jordan Eichholz, has Bernskoetter believing the Falcons have a shot at a district championship this season.

But he also knows in just the second year of the program, that is a lot to expect.

“That’s the disadvantage because they’ve not played enough of that pressure golf,” Bernskoetter said. “I think when that district came, some of them were not used to that. It affects their play. Hopefully last year was a learning experience for us and another year of playing this will help us maybe get over that hump.”

The Falcons know what they have at the top. Franks finished 11th last season at the state meet with a two-round score of 157, while Elder has played lots of tournament golf at the Lake of the Ozarks and in the Show-Me State Games.

“Tanner and Kory have been playing awhile on their own and in tournament play in the summer,” Bernskoetter said. “So they’ve got a lot of experience.”

But Elder and Franks have a unique opportunity in front of them. With less experience around them, they can serve as teachers for the rest of the team. So far, they have embraced the opportunity.

“We’ve got them out playing, and I’ve got Kory with a group, Tanner and Jordan,” Bernskoetter said. “Some of the younger ones I said, ‘Watch Kory. Tanner, help.’ You can learn a lot by just watching someone.”

The Falcons had 15 come out in the first year and have 12 on the team this year, a number Bernskoetter said he likes because it gives the team a chance to have a mix on the varsity squad as well having others get time at the JV level.

“We still have some who just swing for the fence and they live for that one glory swing where they hit one 300 yards, but you forgot about the other eight holes where you hit them in the woods,” Bernskoetter said. “That one stroke isn’t going to make up for the ones you messed up on. If they would just understand how to manage their game a little bit, they would be better off. And hopefully they learned that from last year.”

Bernskoetter said the key to making a successful push lies with how much progress the rest of the team makes. Eichholz and junior Austyn Moreland could step in and take some of the pressure off of Franks and Elder. Other seniors include Dylan Burnell, Justin Kleffner, Devin Kroll and Caleb Boes.

“Jordan Eichholz is a senior and we’re looking for him to step up,” Bernskoetter said. “I’m putting a little bit of that leadership role on him. Austyn Moreland has done well over the summer, too. We’ve got about four of them who are right there. Which one of them is going to step up their play?”

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