WINTHROP — East Buchanan has produced an impressive run the last four seasons.
The Buccaneers haven’t finished lower than fourth at the state golf meet since 2014, placing second in 2015 and winning the last two Class 1A state team titles.
East Buchanan will try to conjure some more postseason magic when it hosts a 1A sectional Friday at Buffalo Creek Golf Course. Some sectional play begins Thursday with the remainder Friday, determining the field for next week’s districts.
As with many teams, the cold weather caused a slow start and led to some ups and downs this season.
“We’re hoping to become a little more consistent,” East Buchanan Coach Scott Zhiss said. “Maybe put up some better numbers. I think we’ve gotten a little better as the spring has progressed.”
The Buccaneers have improved with more time on the course, sitting right on the edge of the top 10 in 1A for 18-hole team score (351.67) and combined adjusted average (183.02). They are eighth in 1A with a nine-hole average of 176.67.
East Buchanan had some big golf shoes to fill with the graduation of half of its state team from a year ago, including two-time state champion Chris Cooksley. Zhiss has had to rely on younger players and a new cast of leaders. He said it has been interesting to watch them respond.
“I know they’ve got potential,” Zhiss said. “Hopefully, they will put something together.”
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Jacob Hesner, Hunter Snyder and Nathan Schmitt were a part of last year’s state title team and lead the way for the Buccaneers, who add senior Spencer Cook and freshmen Trey Johnson and Harley Nelson to the starting lineup.
Hesner placed eighth at state as a junior. He ranks in the top five in all categories among 1A individuals.
“We have some good leadership with Jacob,” Zhiss said. “He has been in the fire enough. He’s been pretty steady all year and that helps. They can feed off him a bit.”
Hesner has made strides from a year ago, improving his technique, course management and the mental approach.
“His ball striking has gotten a lot better,” Zhiss said. “He’s starting to work his way around the course a little better. He’s taking his moments when to be aggressive.
“What’s been good is under bad conditions he does whatever it takes. If he has a little ‘Oops’ moment out there, he sets it aside and continues on. I think that’s maturity.”
The Buccaneers will compete against Alburnett, Belle Plaine, Central City, Edgewood-Colesburg, Isaac Newton Christian Academy and Maquoketa Valley. Zhiss said Alburnett has shown steady improvement and Edgewood-Colesburg has recently surpassed East Buchanan statistically. The Buccaneers will have a tough task to overcome conference foes to advance.
“I’ve seen things out of all the players to give me reason to smile,” Zhiss said. “At times, they are all really good players and hopefully the practice will start kicking in and we can eliminate some numbers.”
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The top two teams and the top two individuals from non-qualifying teams, including all ties, are assured of a trip to the district meet Thursday, May 17 at Pleasant Valley Golf Course in Iowa City.
The area has two sectional meets Thursday. Benton Community will begin its quest for a second straight state trip with a 3A sectional at Springbrook Country Club in DeWitt. The field includes Anamosa, Center Point-Urbana, DeWitt Central, Maquoketa Valley, Marion, Union Community and Vinton-Shellsburg.
In 2A, Dyersville Beckman will host Bellevue, Cascade, Jesup, Monticello, North Linn, Oelwein and Waterloo Columbus at Dyersville Golf and Country Club.
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