116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
SOLON — Few sequels are better than or as good as the original.
Exceptions exist. Think “The Godfather: Part II,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Rocky III.” Inferior follow-ups are more common, resulting in “Speed 2,” “Caddyshack II” and “Teen Wolf Too.”
Solon’s boys’ golf team produced a classic season, tying the program’s best finish with a state runner-up showing last spring. The Spartans’ encore performance has been good with a chance at being more successful when it is complete.
“I think we’ve had a better year this year than last year, too,” Solon sophomore Jack McCarty said. “It will be interesting. I’m excited.”
Solon earned its second consecutive berth and will be one of the top contenders when the Class 3A state golf meet begins Monday at Veenker Memorial Golf Course. First-round play begins at 10:30 a.m.
The Spartans are coming off sectional and district team titles, entering state with a 69-2 overall mark.
“Our season has been phenomenal,” Spartans senior Frank Haege Jr. said. “Our six guys have really put in the work to be something great. I feel like the past week we’ve become closer as a team.
“We’ve had a week to relax, practice and get all the things we needed to get honed in on.”
Solon returned its three top scorers from 2021, earning the first back-to-back state appearances in 15 years under Coach Adam Stahle. The expectations were high to start and the Spartans have been locked in preparing for this moment. They have had a state title in their sights.
“They’ve put in a lot of work,” Stahle said. “They set some goals earlier this year and I think everything is still in front of them.”
A runner-up finish at the Wamac Conference Super Meet increased concentration. Stahle said focus has been “noticeably different” the last two weeks and is at a recent peak.
“It’s fun to watch,” Stahle said. “They’ve put in a lot of work. They set some goals earlier this year and I think everything is still in front of them.”
Solon is second in 3A with a 159.15 combined adjusted team average, trailing defending state champion Gilbert by about 5 1/2 points. The Spartans are third in 18-hole average, sitting at 312.71. Haege (39.17), McCarty (39.38) and freshman Isaiah Zoske (39.85) are 11-13 in combined adjusted average in 3A. All three are in the top 21 in 3A for 18-hole average as well.
Mac McCarty owns a combined adjusted average of 41.06, while Nathan Miller and Brennan Heesch give Solon six at 44.85 or better.
“Walking into a tournament, we know we’re going to have four really, really solid scores,” Haege said. “We don’t know who they’re going to come from, technically. We just know we’re going to have four. It’s really a nice feeling to have.”
Players have added confidence, knowing if they stumble a teammate is there to pick up the slack. Balance alleviates the pressure for perfection. Solon benefited from it in the postseason with Mac McCarty earning sectional medalist honors with his season-best round of 71. Zoske was district medalist, winning a playoff.
“It is one of the things that separates good golf teams from great golf teams,” Stahle said. “It’s just the depth.”
Haege said this team is the most competitive team he has ever witnessed. They turn practices and putting greens into a contest, attempting to out-do one another and trading good-natured barbs. Haege reluctantly chose himself as the most competitive, conceding that it could be Jack McCarty. Haege picked Zoske as the best smack-talker.
“The six guys on our team are golfers,” Haege said. “They don’t play golf for the free golf. They play to win golf tournaments.
“We just try to push each other to another level. It’s toxic, but a good kind of toxic.”
Solon received a confidence boost, beating Gilbert in a regular-season meet at Cedar Rapids Country Club. The Spartans have been motivated to avenge that distant second-place finish to the Tigers. Both McCarty and Haege said they have the potential to improve from a year ago and earn the program’s first state crown.
“We’re looking forward to go back,” Stahle said. “It’s not lost on any of us that it is special. I think a lot of times things get taken for granted.
“This is a big deal. The kids deserve it. They’ve worked very hard at it. I’m extremely proud of each and every one of them.”
IHSAA state golf tournaments
(Veenker Memorial Golf Course)
Teams – Adel ADM, Gilbert, Knoxville, MOC-Floyd Valley, Newton, Pella, Solon, Spencer, Washington (Iowa), Webster City
Other Gazette-area Individuals – Noah Nabb, sr., Maquoketa; Nathan Whalen, jr., Marion
(Coldwater Golf Links)
Teams – Boyden-Hull, Des Moines Christian, Dyersville Beckman, Grundy Center, Hudson, Osage, West Branch, Western Christian
Other Gazette-area individuals – Nick Krambeer, soph., MFL MarMac; Mikey Takacs, jr., Iowa City Regina
(Ames Golf and Country Club)
Teams – Akron-Westfield, Don Bosco, East Buchanan, English Valleys, Fremont-Mills, North Butler, Wapello
Other Gazette-area individuals – Jace Rempel, jr., Hillcrest Academy; Jack Wiskus, sr., Edgewood-Colesburg