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Experienced Saints look to make mark this golf season

Xavier returns four of top seven from last year's state squad

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Xavier has become a regular at the state golf tournament.

The Saints have forged their way to the Class 4A meet all but one year since 2012. Their sights are set on something bigger than just extending the successful stretch. The Saints want to give themselves a chance to go out with more of a bang.

“Going to state in the past three or four years really puts the pressure on us to get back there,” Xavier junior Brad Karpick said. “Coach (Tim O’Brien) is also adding that he wants to get there and make some noise. He said we’ve never finished in the top half and we’re trying to get that as our goal.”

Xavier returns a veteran group, including half of last year’s state meet squad, and is looking for its best season. The Saints will start their season Thursday, playing in the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet at The Meadows Golf Club in Dubuque.

“They are looking forward to the season,” O’Brien said. “I’m excited to see what they can accomplish (Thursday).”

The work for fall accomplishments began closer to the end of last season than the start of this one. The Saints devoted their time in the off-season, getting stronger, improving technique and gaining experience.

O’Brien said that 15 of 18 returning players participated in the Rotary Pribyl tournament, noting that it was more than any other prep program.

“They played a lot more golf,” O’Brien said. “They stepped up. I was pretty happy about that.”

O’Brien estimated more Saints dedicated their time to summer competition than any other year. They answered a challenge from their coach to get more experience by playing holes, instead of just hitting the range.

“I feel we all had a well-played summer,” Karpick said. “We were all in tournaments and hopefully we can carry that into the fall.”

The additional play improved the camaraderie. The Saints have developed a more positive atmosphere and better work ethic

“It’s different because we’re all much closer,” Xavier senior captain Sam Martin said. “That has helped chemistry. We all got along well together. We’re all really excited for the season to come and we’re ready to work really hard.”

The effort has propelled Karpick to the head of Xavier’s lineup. He was the seventh golfer, just missing the starting lineup for last postseason. Karpick begins the season as Xavier’s No. 1 golfer.

He earned a runner-up finish at the Pribyl behind Cedar Rapids Washington’s Frank Lindwall, firing a final-round 69 at Elmcrest Country Club.

“I worked really hard this winter with lifting, getting better and working with Larry (Gladson) at Elmcrest in the winter on my swing mechanics,” Karpick said. “I just was going around playing tournaments this year and finding good competition to play with.”

Missing out on the postseason as a sophomore motivated Karpick. The disappointment helped lead to his biggest stride.

“It’s mostly the mental side,” said Karpick, who averaged just over 82 per 18 holes last season. “Last year when I found out that I wasn’t going to be playing in district or the state tournament really got to me. I really wanted to be there.”

Martin, senior Tyler Breitbach and junior Matt Neumeyer are among the leaders this season. All received all-Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division honors. Martin and Breitbach averaged under 80 a year ago, while Neumeyer managed an 81.18 average.

O’Brien said junior Ryan Keating and sophomore Nick Recker are promising newcomers and could contribute this fall.

“We have depth with our team,” Karpick said. “We have many players who can step up.

“We have four really good players and two more who can step in.”

Xavier placed 10th at the 2015 state meet, matching its finish in 2013. The Saints best finish was ninth in 2012. The goal is not only getting there again but to place higher than ever.

“I think everything is working well right now,” Martin said. “I know we’re not going to practice less. We’re going to do more.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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