BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON — A season ago, the Rams golf team was loaded with veterans.
This year inexperience reigns for the Rams.
“I know the group I have is the group I've got to go with, so we're going to just try to get better as we go,” Mt. Vernon coach Quinn McClure said.
State qualifiers Trevor Flota and Matthew Williams both graduated and are continuing their golf careers at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Nick Meyer returns as a senior. Meyer played consistently on varsity last year on a squad that advanced to the sectional. Kylan Hallam also brings some experience back to the varsity level.
A pair of juniors Ryan Campbell and Chase Regenhardt join Meyer and Hallam. The squad also has a pair of freshmen in Chase Regenhardt and Bryan Bain.
“Your first high school match, it's obviously your first time, so things are going to be a little bit different and nerve wracking,” McClure said.
Golf gets the earliest start of all the fall sports, and the Rams have already competed in several meets.
Mt. Vernon opened the year with a fourth-place finish in the South Seven Preview match. This year the event was held in Centralia. Meyer and Hallam paced Mt. Vernon's team with scores of 78. Campbell finished with a 90.
“Nick and Kylan that's kind of what I hope they're going to do all year long,” McClure said. “If we're in an 18-hole event, they're going to be right there under 80, and I think Ryan probably is going to do better.”
McClure said it's up to the players to hone their skills in the summer. The Rams have a three-day tryout Wednesday-Friday, Aug. 14-16, and then compete in their first meet the following Monday. The quick start leaves little time for large alterations to the way a player approaches his game and technique.
“When you get to me, it's time to go, and we do minor fixes,” McClure said. “I don't have the time or the resources, just time would be the big thing to start over. Because we already played a match (Aug. 19).
“I've got some kids that are just beginning, and they just got thrown in the fire.”
One of the signature event of the Rams season is the South Seven Conference meet at Centralia on Oct. 3.
“We're always right in the mix in the conference, and I don't think there's any reason we couldn't be again this year.
“I don't know if we can win it, but I think we can be right up there.
The Rams will host the regional again this season at their home course Green Hills. The sectional stays close as well with Salem hosting..
“Our kids are familiar obviously here, and they're familiar with Salem's course so I don't think it's unrealistic to think that a kid could not get out of the sectional and go to the state tournament.”
McClure said he just wants to see his squad improve throughout the season.
“I would say a good goal would be just to get better, just be competitive,” McClure said. “For three golfers (at the South Seven Preview), we were competitive.
“Hopefully we'll just get better as the year goes on. That's all you can ask for.”