When the Hutchinson boys golf team lost its 2020 season, there was one silver lining: The team didn’t have any seniors. This year’s Tiger squad, however, will be led by a core of upperclassmen, several of whom are returning with varsity experience under their belts.
“We were young,” head coach Tim Longie said. “Now this year we have three seniors.”
Returning to the team for their final seasons are senior captain Cam Longie, along with senior teammates Cole Rahne and Alexander Staples. They’re joined by juniors Devon Verhasselt, Cade Salmela, Carson Hutton and Theo Kadlec, plus eighth-grader Joe Anderson.
Leading Hutch’s experienced core are Cam and Verhasselt, who will start out as the team’s No. 1 and 2 golfers, respectively. Cam joined varsity as an eighth-grader and has been a leader with his score since his freshman season. Verhasselt also moved up to varsity in eighth grade, and like Cam made an immediate impact on the team.
Starting in Hutch’s No. 3 spot will be Rahne, who made his varsity debut as a sophomore in 2019.
“After that, we’re having tryouts … for the rest of the guys to see where they fit, and wherever they fit they’ll play,” coach Longie said. “And that’s going to change a lot. That could change the next day, the week later, that’s golf.”
Hutch’s experience doesn’t end with those three. Staples and Salmela also saw extensive time on the varsity team in 2019, and they’ll look to contribute even more in 2021. Of course the question that all coaches have after nearly two years since the last high school golf season is, how much have players improved?
“The guys who want to get better put the time in in the summer, and you can tell,” coach Longie said. “If guys want to get good, they have the resources, they have the ability to find help and get lessons. So you can see who has decided to improve and who hasn’t. The thing about golf is, we’ll play and the scores don’t lie. You can’t get around your score.”
The Tigers will have needed to improve if they hope to accomplish some of the big goals they’ve set for this season. That begins in the Wright County Conference East, which has been dominated by Waconia and Holy Family for the past six years. Waconia won conference titles from 2015 to 2019, while the best finish the Tigers took was third place in 2016. In 2019, however, the Tigers fell all the way back to sixth place, and they’re hoping to make their way back up the standings.
“One of our goals would be to finish top three,” coach Longie said. “We have a really competitive golf conference with Waconia, Holy Family, I know Delano has been young, so I’m guessing they’re going to be pretty good this year.”
The conference is also a little bigger than it was in 2019, with Mound Westonka and Jordan joining the group.
And then of course there’s the Section 2AAA playoffs, which coach Longie called “probably the toughest in the state of Minnesota.”
“We’re in with the big schools, so we’re playing with Eden Prairie and Minnetonka, and as you know it’s a different world,” he said. “They’ve got six guys that can break par.”
The team’s goal for the playoffs is to be one of the top four teams to qualify for the second day of sections, or have several individuals make the cut. But that’s easier said than done. Since Longie took over as coach in 2017, the Tigers have never qualified for the second day as a team, and they’ve had just six individuals move on.
“We’ve been really close and we’ve had some good teams,” coach Longie said. “We’ve had a number of individuals get to the second day … but it’s a cutthroat section.”
Time will tell if the Tigers have come far enough since 2019 to make a run.