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Cedar Rapids Xavier focused on improvement, hopes to peak for boys’ golf postseason
7 of the top-17 Class 4A teams vie for 3 state berths
CEDAR RAPIDS — Golf is a game without defense.
The sport consists of athlete versus the immediate shot. Similar to swimmers or runners racing the clock, there’s no need to pay attention to the field and how other teams are doing.
For Cedar Rapids Xavier Coach Tim O’Brien, his message was simple when the postseason assignments were released.
“We talked to the guys that we just have to get better,” O’Brien said. “That’s all we’ve talked about. That’s all we’re focused on since the pairings came out.”
The Saints are one of seven teams ranked in the top 17 for 18-hole average that will compete in a district meet Monday at Thunder Hills Country Club in Peosta. Three other districts will be held Tuesday at Ames, Burlington and Sioux City. The top three teams from each qualifier will advance to the state meet Friday and Saturday at Beaver Hills Country Club in Cedar Falls.
The Peosta field includes top-ranked Cedar Falls, No. 4 Cedar Rapids Kennedy, No. 11 Marshalltown, No. 12 Xavier, No. 13 Cedar Rapids Washington, host Western Dubuque, which is 16th and No. 17 Dubuque Wahlert. Only 11 strokes separate the 18-hole averages of those last five teams.
“Teams that make it will be playing good golf,” said O’Brien, whose Saints average 312.86 per 18 holes. “It will serve them well. I expect teams to come out of here to do well at state.”
Xavier has made a strong push in the week, leading up to the qualifier. The Saints were 10-0 last week, winning the final Mississippi Valley Conference Valley divisional by topping conference champion Kennedy by 10 strokes that round. Charlie Allen and Ryan Schmitt finished first and second, respectively, and Quincey Johnson and Garrett Nurre earned first-team all-conference honors.
The Saints also placed first at a conference quadrangular at their home course of St. Andrews Golf Club, edging Washington by three. Those were the first two first-place finishes for Xavier this season.
“I like where we are right now going in,” O’Brien said. “It was a good week. We have confidence.”
Another reason for optimism is a statistical improvement in recent weeks. He did not mention specific categories, but noted the Saints have been spotted on the practice greens working on putts, while other players are finishing rounds.
“There are reasons why we have won this week,” O’Brien said. “Part of that is you look at our stats and the conclusion is we have gotten better. The kids knew and have bought in. They have been working hard to get better.”
Xavier is looking for its fifth straight state meet appearance as a team. It would extend its record streak. The Saints will rely on the same philosophy that has gotten them this far.
”We will see what happens,” O’Brien said. “I am looking forward to it. It should be fun. They are very excited for it.”
Washington owns a similar attitude. The Warriors will concentrate on their own performance, attempting to peak at the right time and hoping for the best. Washington Coach Dennis Goettel said competitors like the challenge.
“It puts you in a mode you should be in anyway,” Goettel said. “We have beaten each of those teams sometime this year. We have to believe.”
Nile Petersen, the 2019 4A state runner-up, leads the way. He averages a little more than 74 per round. Ben Blocklinger has also competed at state. They will be part of three juniors and three seniors to open the postseason.
“We have that level of experience,” Goettel said. “They have been looking forward to this goal all season.
“We have seven good guys and it was a really tough choice. It is so close between five, six and seven. We’re going to pull together.”
The rest of the 14-team tournament includes Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Iowa City High, Iowa City West, Waterloo East and Waterloo West.
Other area teams will play Tuesday. Sixth-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie is looking for its first consecutive state berths in program history. The Hawks and Linn-Mar head to Burlington Golf Club. Iowa City Liberty will travel to a district at Veenker Golf Course in Ames.