The Fulton golf team finished up a powerful performance last Wednesday to take their first Northwest Upstate Illini Conference title, and now they have their eyes on the next step.
The Steamers take to the fairways on Wednesday in Port Byron for the Illinois High School Athletic Association postseason, starting with Class 1A regional golf at Byron Hills Golf Course.
Two upperclassmen have been leading the group all year. Ian Wiebenga shot a 74 through 18-holes to win the individual conference title last week. Wiebenga, a senior, has been playing varsity since his freshman year.
“I’ve learned a lot. Mentally, a ton,” Wiebenga said. “Freshman year, I’d get so upset. I learned a lot from guys that are older than me that have graduated.”
His resume includes being on the 7th place state team from 2019, a historic season for the Fulton golf program. That team included state medalist Andrew Schrader, state qualifier Josh VanderPloeg and Ian’s own older brother Patrick Wiebenga.
All three of those players brought a wealth of experience and left a large legacy for the Fulton golf program.
“It helped me a lot, they led me so much,” Ian Wiebenga said. “Now, I think it helped us to be leaders. They showed us and now we can be leaders to our team, because we have a really young team right now.”
Also on that state team, golfing as a freshman, was Landon Meyers. Meyers is now the No. 2 golfer for the varsity and has taken his experience as an underclassmen to heart in his leadership role.
“Both mentally and physically I’ve learned a lot,” Meyers said. “The older guys taught a lot about keeping myself together. I gave up on myself a lot my freshman year, I’ve gotten better at that.
“I really learned to support the younger kids and help them out when you can. I’ve been in that position before and it’s hard, so I try to help underclassmen whenever I can.”
After so many years of watching the upperclassmen while just focusing on golfing, the move to a leadership role was something new to both. With a young team and a brand new head coach the last two years, it’s been an imperative transition for Steamer success.
“It was very weird,” Wiebenga said. “The first practice was strange, it didn’t feel right. I’ve gotten used to it and I’m having a lot of fun with the guys and helping them out this year.”
And they’ve flourished.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job with what they have,” second-year head coach Mitch VanZuiden said about his No. 1 and No. 2 golfers. “I said early on that they’re the captains, they have to be the leaders and help other kids out and they’ve done a great job of that.
“At times, they play really well and put up low numbers. That’s all I can ask from them.”
The conference championship was just step one. Both Wiebenga and Meyers are used to having success and that’s still what they aim for.
“We want to win and get better, that’s all we want,” Wiebenga said about his team.
Regionals start Wednesday in the state of Illinois, and if they can advance they’ll move to sectionals at Byron.
“I think we can make it,” Wiebenga said. “I have a lot of faith in the guys.
“It’s our determination. All the guys want it, and we know it. We know we can get there, we just have to work hard. We’re very determined to get there.”
With no postseason last year, it’s something both golfers have looked forward to since 2019. They’ve proven they’re capable of the low scores and the team wins. They just want to translate that into postseason success once again.
They have the experience to lean on and the mentality to make it happen.
“I think we’re right where we want to be,” Meyers said. “We’re going to go out, play a couple of good tournaments and see what happens.”
Check the Clinton Herald website Wednesday and Thursday’s sports section for results from Illinois regional golf.