Fulton Varsity Golf Coach Kevin Ver Hoeven isn’t surprised that he has two athletes competing in the Illinois Class 1A state golf tournament after the work he has seen from Jason Sikkema and Andrew Schrader this season.
“Jason is quiet, but he leads by example. Andrew plays all the time, both of them do, so they’ve earned their spot here,” Ver Hoeven said. “They’ve made a lot of strides from last year to this year not just because of the work, but mentally they’ve improved so much in how to play the game and not let get bad shots get to them. They’ve just been great.”
The Fulton Steamers won their regional meet, met with a lot of fanfare back home. Moving on to sectionals, Fulton finished in 6th overall, just 13 strokes from qualifying as a team.
Two athletes made it individually. Sikkema shot a 72 to tie for third place in the overall standings, and Schrader advanced with a 76 at the par-72 Elliot Golf Course.
Now that the excitement has calmed down, both Schrader and Sikkema have cool heads about it as well. For them, it was just another goal they reached.
“It was a huge thing to win regionals as a team, so that was a huge accomplishment. We didn’t even think we did that well, and then we found out we won,” Schrader said. “I’ve met all my goals, so I don’t have alot fop reassure going into state. I have two more years left to get higher.”
It’s especially exciting for Schrader, who is just in his sophomore year at Fulton High School. Though an underclassman, he’s happy with how his season has gone.
“I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone. I’ve met all my goals and that’s a good thing,” Schrader said, reflecting on the season. My average has been good, and I’ve only had a couple bad rounds.”
It’s really a testament to the work Schrader has put into the game he is passionate about.
“When I’m not in school and stuff I’m always out here, working on my game,” Schrader said. “You have to put in the work. What you put in is what you get out. I’m out here all the time practicing, practicing, practicing and it’s good to see it paying off.”
It helps a little that Schrader has a senior like Jason Sikkema to look at as an example.
“He’s a good leader and he’s also really chill, doesn’t talk much—he just goes out there and does his thing on the golf course,” Schrader said of his teammate. “Definitely someone I look up to, I’m not going to say that to his face though.”
The quiet senior may not have a lot of words for his teammates, but he shows them how to play the game. That’s what Coach Ver Hoeven has seen in his interactions with Schrader throughout this season.
“I think that he’s learned the mental aspect of the game. You have to be so mentally tough,” Ver Hoeven said. “They’ve learned from each other and they’ve pushed each other, consciously or subconsciously, to be the very best. When they go out an play together in practice rounds, that’s how they get better.”
The friendly competition helped, as both are now headed to Bloomington, Ill. together for the state tournament.
“I’ve had the goal to go to state since I started high school,” Sikkema said. “After my freshman year, I didn’t even get out of sectionals. It was a reality check and I realized it was going to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be and I had to put in a lot of work.”
Sikkema didn’t really get out on the golf course until he was in 7th grade, and did so because it was a game his father was passionate about. Now he’s passionate about it as well, looking to continue playing into college.
He isn’t really surprised by the end of the season.
“We kind of always knew that we were going to be the last two standings because we kind of separated ourselves from the group. We’ve been close because of that and it’s going to be a fun time,” Sikkema said about the trip to Bloomington. The pair left Thursday evening. “I think I’m just going to have fun. It’s my senior year and I’m at state, that’s the final step. If something happens, it happens but I’m not going to push too hard for anything.”
Sikkema said even though this season started out slow, he’s glad to see where he progressed to and even happier to see the success his team had.
“I tried to learn the ropes last year from our one senior. This year I have put all I know to the test,” Sikkema said. “My dad helped me and our coach helped me to be the leader people want to look up to.”
Now that they’re at that level, it’s all about having a good time. Both athletes said they weren’t going in feeling pressured, but rather going in to play the best golf they can and enjoy the experience.
“This season has been the most fun I’ve had because we were so successful and because of the people on the team. It’s been a blast,” Sikkema said. “All of our hard work has kind of gone unnoticed so I’m glad to see it pay off and to see people recognizing it.”