FULTON – Kevin Ver Hoeven was fired up. He pumped his fists and let out a roar as he panned around the dozen Fulton High School golfers forming a circle around the fifth-year coach.
And for good reason.
The Steamers, off to a brilliant start this season, etched a historical win to their campaign, ousting Riverdale and Orion in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference triangular Monday at Fulton Country Club.
After Orion quickly fizzled from contention, Fulton turned its attention to Riverdale, who has not lost a meet within the conference in at least the past five seasons. Well, until Monday.
Behind even-par 34’s from Andrew Schrader and Patrick Wiebenga, Fulton slipped past the Rams, 148-153. Orion carded 175 strokes. Josh VanderPloeg pitched in a 38 and Ian Wiebenga rounded out the Steamers’ scorers with 42.
There aren’’t many teams whose “worst” score is 42.
“It gives us some confidence and momentum,” Ver Hoeven said. “These are the high points that you want to celebrate and enjoy.”
While Ver Hoeven said the effort from two-time state qualifier Schrader was simply “Andrew being Andrew,” [Patrick] Wiebenga shined in a big way with his even-par outing to help push the Steamers to triumph. Wiebenga typically hovers around the low 40’s and most recently shot 45 last week in Aledo.
“He’s started to relax a little bit more and it has made a huge difference,” Ver Hoeven said. “I am so proud of him.”
The mental strength has emerged as an asset for the entire team. Alex Hartman started 5-over-par in the first two holes before rallying to a 5-over-par finish in the final seven. Schrader’s blistering start was temporarily stalled by a missed par putt from close range before the senior regrouped and rattled off a handful of key saves, including a 15-foot put to salvage par down the stretch.
“I’m watching body language and that probably means more to me than anything,” Ver Hoeven said. “’Are they getting down on themselves?’ or ‘Are they keeping their heads up?’
“These kids have played enough, I really don’t have to tell them anything they don’t already know but I want them to know that I have their back when they are out there.”
Sure, the Steamers are clicking on the course. That goes without saying. But, following the mental component path, Ver Hoeven is impressed with the way his team interacts with one another during competitive rounds. After all, golf is frustrating, and support from a peer can go a long way.
“So far, in my five years [as coach], I have not had a team more helpful to each other,” Ver Hoeven said. “They are really good about helping out their teammates, which is really neat.”
The Steamers waste little time returning to action, as they will host Wethersfield Tuesday. But not without enjoying this feat first.
“This is fun,” Ver Hoeven said. “I’m just so happy for the kids.”