By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — MORRISON, Ill. — He has to replace the top golfer in the Three Rivers Conference and two others, but Morrison coach Ben Sondgeroth says the Mustangs still can compete for one of the top spots in the expanded conference this fall.
“I think we should score in the mid-160s to 170s, which will win a lot of matches,” Sondgeroth said. “With the new conference (alignment), it’s going to be different shooting for the conference title. There could be four or five teams competing for the title. I think we have that ability. As we get rolling and out of the heat wave, I think we will be able to compete with anybody in the conference.”
Led by conference meet medalist Reid Hoffman, Morrison finished just one stroke behind conference champion Fulton last fall. But Hoffman graduated, leaving the Mustangs looking to find a new leader.
“We’re pretty young — two sophomores, three juniors and one senior on the varsity — but we have a lot of guys back who contributed,” Sondgeroth said.
Three players who competed on the Morrison squad that turned in a 333 team total at the conference meet are back: Colton Smith, Brock Smith and Ben Tegeler. Colton Smith, a junior, is on the varsity for the third year. He shot an 87 at last year’s conference meet after shooting a 93 in 2011. Tegeler, a sophomore, also shot an 87 last year, while junior Brock Smith (no relation to Colton) shot a 90 at the conference meet.
“Colton has really been playing well as of late,” Sondgeroth said. “He was fourth over the weekend at Rock Falls. He started slow (this season) but has picked it up the last few matches.
“Brock is really going to be consistent at the top. He’s steady in the low 40s, and I anticipate him being right there at number 1 and 2. Ben has had a couple of good scores and a couple I’d like to see him improve on, but he has a lot of talent. He’s really focused, and I expect he’ll put it together.”
Three members of last year’s conference championship junior varsity squad have moved up to fill the other three varsity positions.
Sophomore Noah Hogue was the JV conference medalist last fall, while senior Nick Kaufman placed third.
“Noah showed flashes last year as a freshman where we knew he’d be able to step in,” Sondgeroth said. “He’s got a lot of ability. He shot par at home last week. Nick has been around and seen most of the courses we play.”
Rounding out the squad is junior Anthony Tenboer, who has played on the JV squad the past two years.
“Anthony is more than capable to come in in the low 40s,” Sondgeroth said.
The addition of six schools to the Three Rivers should add to the competition this fall, Sondgeroth said. Hall Township of Spring Valley, Princeton, Peru St. Bede, Rockridge, Sherrard and Orion are the new members. Sondgeroth said a couple of those schools might be in the title hunt.
“Hall is solid and Sherrard is good,” he said. “We added some nice, quality teams.”
The holdovers will have a say in who wins, as well.
“Riverdale has put up some nice scores and is looking solid,” Sondgeroth said. “They won the Rock Falls Invitational. Kewanee is loaded with everybody back. They’re probably the top team to compete with.”
The conference champion and individual champion will be based on regular-season play and the conference tournament. All regular-season conference meets are triangulars, with the winning team receiving two points and the second-place team getting one. Individuals will get points ranging from 12 for the meet medalist to 1 for the player with the 12th-best score. Points also will be awarded at the conference tournament, which no longer will be held at Maple Bluff Golf Course in Geneseo, Ill. It will rotate among the schools’ home courses, this year being played at Spring Creek in Spring Valley.
“It’s a fun way; I like it,” Sondgeroth said. “I think this is a little more fair and makes teams play more consistent.”