Hopes are running high for the Lyons Township boys' golf team, especially after a seventh-place finish at the IHSA State tournament last year.
The Lions return four of their six starters, and have every reason to be optimistic going into the 2005 season.
"It's a really nice thing having so many guys back," said Mark Doyle, who is now entering his ninth year as LT's boys' golf coach. "They know what to do right away in terms of getting ready, and they prepared for it all summer. They've worked hard getting ready for the season, and hopefully that translates into some nice things for us."
The Lions will have a lot of positive experiences to build upon. A year ago, the Lions finished first in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, first at regionals and first at sectionals.
Leading this year's group of returnees is senior Michael Reed, who will be the team captain. Andrew Venclovas, who won an individual conference championship last year, returns, as does all-conference player Sean Cunningham. Tom Vyskocil from Brookfield is also back.
Joining the varsity will be Scott Pralle, a junior that played well last year on the freshman/sophomore level. He was a place-winner in the WSC Silver fresh/soph tournament last season.
"I think that experience they have will make a big difference," Doyle said. "To experience those type of pressure situations like these guys have during the State tournament is invaluable. They know they won't hit every shot perfectly, but can move on from things like that and still come in with a good score."
Coping with adversity will be a primary goal for the Lions, who last season hit a road-bump in the second round of last year's State tournament. All four returning LT golfers saw there scores jump in the tournament's second day, with Reed (12 strokes worse) and Vyskocil (16 strokes) especially being roughed up by weather conditions on Day 2.
"The toughest thing about high school golf is that almost everything is a one-day shot, and the IHSA meet is only a 2-day event," Doyle said. "When you watch golf on TV, that's a 3- to 4-day event, but in high school, if you're off just a little bit, you don't have the time to make it up. Those are the days you just have to grind through and come out with a good score.
LT kicks off its season this Friday when it travels to the Larkin Invitational in Elgin. The Lions took second place at this tournament last year.
The Lions will also try to keep a two-year unbeaten streak inside their conference alive when they face Oak Park on Aug.
29 in their first conference dual of the
"We play in one of the best golf conferences in the state," Doyle said. "There are no slouches, so we'll see a lot of good competition."
Despite the high hopes, Doyle will be satisfied to see this team simply live up to the three goals he sets for the program every year:
"We want everyone to be involved in the team," he said. "We want everyone to compete with class and dignity. And we want to compete with the best."