A young and inexperienced Jefferson City golf team took its share of lumps on the course a season ago.
But with most of its varsity team returning, the Jays are hopeful to turn some of the struggles into more positives this season.
"I think we're a little more mature mentally and physically," Jays coach Randy Bickel said as the team prepares to open the season today at Waynesville. "We should be a much better team this year than we were last year."
Bickel is hoping a year of experience pays dividends for the Jays, who finished ninth out of 10 teams last year at the district meet.
How does the progress start? The same way it does with nearly every golfer.
"It's consistency," Bickel said. "But in that consistency, it's more mental than it is physical. They just need to learn to be mentally tough, accept the shot they just hit, put it behind them and move on."
Those in the mix for time on the varsity include juniors David Anderson and Grant Haarmann, sophomore Andrew Hansen, seniors Brennen Horn, Austin Vaughn and Travis Roberts, and freshman Gabe Trowbridge.
Hansen was Jefferson City's highest finisher at the district meet. Anderson, Harmann and Roberts also competed at the meet.
Except for Trowbridge, the others in the mix have varsity experience.
"He has a good shot at making varsity and he's going to help us immensely," Bickel said of Trowbridge.
There is certainly plenty of competition for sports on the varsity this year, however. The Jays have 20 golfers on the roster. Bickel noted it's a good chance for golfers with less experience to learn the game.
"At that age, some of them haven't hit growth spurts, some have," Bickel said.
"You can't judge freshmen and sophomores on today, what they are going to be like today or the day after. Get them acclimated to golf, get them to enjoy a life sport."
Like most high-school golfers, Bickel said the key for his team is going to be to focusing on areas around the green. He said that is where progress has to be made in a season that lasts about 10 weeks.
"The average amateur golfer spends far too much time hitting their driver, seeing how far they can hit the ball," Bickel said. "They need to focus on, and that's what we need to focus on, is 150 yards in because that's where you make up your shots, and that's going to make the difference. All too often guys say "I can't putt.'
"Well, maybe it's not the putting, maybe it's your approach shots are leaving you with the impossible first putt, or your chipping is deficient and you aren't chipping it close enough to give you an opportunity."
That hasn't been an easy thing to do early in the season however. With the bad weather in the last several weeks, most of Jefferson City's work came on the range. Bickel noted "it's kind of hard to see the ball flight when the snow is on the ground and the ball is in flight."
Jefferson City is scheduled to open the home portion of its schedule against California on Friday at Oak Hills. Other schedule notes include a match against Helias on April 15 at Meadow Lake Acres and the Capital City Invitational on April 22 at the Jefferson City Country Club.
"We've got some guys back with some varsity experience and hopefully they'll be good role models and mentors for the younger players, Bickel said. "It's a work in progress."