What the future has in store for this newest version of the Cougar boys is unclear but the SSHS squad does have an experienced core returning for the upcoming spring season.
Junior Jordan Gilmore leads the way. He was the state runner-up two years ago and is regarded as one of the top prep players in northern Nevada. Senior Carson Cooke and juniors Kevin O'Kuingttons and Matt Beebe all saw extensive action in varsity tournaments a year ago. In addition, senior Dylan Ernst is back for the Cougars. He played on the local team's state title winner in 2009 but moved for last school year before returning for this season.
“I think that experience is going to be to our advantage,” first-year Spanish Springs coach Nick Wirshing said. “We do have so many returners. With the weather giving us this late start, we should be a little better off with our returners compared to schools with new guys. The poor weather could be to our benefit even though it's been frustrating.”
The poor weather Wirshing alluded to affected prep golf programs across northern Nevada. Snow, frost and general cold temperatures pushed back the start of the season for almost a week. The first day teams were allowed to start practice was Feb. 26. However, golf courses in Reno-Sparks did not open for play until the middle of the following week.
“We got a bit of a late start,” Wirshing said. "Basically, we're a full week behind because of the snow. So it's tough to get a full read on the team yet. So far we're looking pretty good. There's definitely some experience coming back so it looks promising so far.”
The Cougars' first year coach said due to the season's slow start he hasn't gotten a chance to talk about goals and expectations for the season. He said time for that will come in the next week or so.
“We're just trying to get in shape, get our legs under us. I haven't even done a lot of coaching. We're just trying to get on the course as much as possible.”
Spanish Springs and the rest of its High Desert League rivals have another week to prepare for tournament play before the league's first event, a March 22 tourney at WildCreek Golf Course.
“I definitely wish we had another week to practice,” Wirshing said. “I feel like we're pushing it to be competing that day, but we'll do our best. Everybody is in the same boat. We'll all be a little green around the edges.
“We want to play as many holes as we can in the next week. We'll talk about ways to score and stay out of trouble on the course. I'm really looking to keep our mistakes down. If we're not hitting great shots, I'm OK with that. We'll focus on keeping it in the fairway and staying out of trouble as much as possible.”
•At Reed, the Raiders' boys golf squad returns a bevy of talent as well. Jake Nelson, Jake Day and Colton King are all back for the RHS squad after playing in varsity tourneys all last spring.
Reed also has a handful of players who were on the varsity squad last year, practicing throughout the season, but who did not qualify to play in tournaments. Anthony Shelton, Tyler Carnahan, Dave Hibler, Shane Pinkston and Tyler Plata make up that group.
Raiders freshman Trevor Wood is a talented find for the east Sparks school as well. Second-year Reed coach Danielle Fleiner said she believes Wood is good enough to play in every varsity tournament this spring.
“We graduated a lot of our team from last year, but we have those top three kids coming in and Trevor will be our fourth, I think we should be pretty good,” she said. “The rest of the kids coming in will play for those last two spots. Those kids will give each other a run for their money. It should be a good challenge.”
Reed, which had missed qualifying for regional play in recent years, got back to that last spring. The Raiders finished third in the HDL's regular season standings and went on to a fourth-place regional team finish.
Fleiner said last year's improvements have left this year's club setting lofty goals.
“Last year we were hoping to go as a team and we made it to regionals for the first time in a long time. This year those are our expectations. Now, the goal is to be one of the top two teams at regionals and go to state as a team.”
•In the 3A ranks, the Sparks boys golf team will compete in its first tournament Monday at Fallon.