The Cougars, who gave away their chance to qualify for last year’s state tournament, return the reigning Northern 4A individual champion Jordan Gilmore. But they certainly won’t be as deep as usual this spring.
Four golfers who all had a chance to be part of the team’s top six, won’t be with the squad this year. The biggest blow is Anthony Decker, who is recovering in the Bay Area from his battle with cancer. Decker was the team’s No. 2 golfer a year ago as a freshman. Decker missed out on qualifying for state as an individual by four strokes.
Two other golfers are academically ineligible and the other had to get a job.
“We took a bunch of hits this year, but some of the young guys look pretty good, so we might still be alright,” SSHS boys golf coach Nick Wirshing said. “We got kind of hosed. After all that, the guys who are here, are real positive. It‘s a really good group of guys just personality wise. It‘s going to be real fun to work with them this year.”
But at least the Cougars will have the leadership of Gilmore. Now a senior, Gilmore has been making waves on the Northern Nevada golf scene since the first day he donned the purple of Spanish Springs his freshman year.
“Jordan is real motivated by that (the team’s Day 2 of regionals collapse). Even though Jordan did well individually, he’s a real team guy. He’s definitely pushing these guys to be better,” Wirshing said. “He was out here all summer pushing these guys to play, so it is a motivator for us even though we’re fairly new. Jordan is going to get in everybody’s head and make sure they know that’s not OK.”
Wirshing also expects a couple of sophomores to step up for the Cougs. Tommy McAllister turned in the third best performance at regionals for the team last year as a freshman. He and Gilmore are really the only returners who played in tournaments a year ago.
Sophomore Cole Shirley only qualified for one tournament last season, but Wirshing said he was going to count on Shirley to score a lot for the team. Shirley played a lot over the summer and improved greatly.
Another bright spot for Wirshing is this is his second year with the Cougars. Without the first-year growing pains, he expects this season to be much better.
“It has been easier. We have the ground rules sort of set from last year,” he said. “Just the day-to-day practice stuff, it’s not all brand new. It’s a lot easier as far as that goes. I know the guys. They know me, so it’s been a lot easier this season than last.”
Wirshing expects McQueen and Reno to be strong this year, but also believes his team will improve over the course of the season and will be ready to challenge them at regionals.
“We kind of need to see what the rest of the league looks like, but we still have high aspirations even though we’re real new,” Wirshing said. “We’re definitely looking to push the best teams in our region. We’re going to do our best to hang with those guys all year long, and then see if by the time regionals get here, give them a run for their money.”
Spanish Springs hosts the first High Desert League tournament of the year Tuesday.
Wirshing knows what first-year Reed coach Nick Nemsgern is going through taking over a program. However, Nemsgern’s first season with the Blue and Gold and first ever coaching golf period, has hit a speed bump as well.
Reed lost its home course when D’Andrea Golf & Country Club closed last week.
But Reed can’t worry about the financial issues at D’Andrea. It’s out of the Raiders’ control. What they can control is the quality of golf they put out on the course throughout the spring.
“As a first-year golf coach, I’m just going to take what I can get,” Nemsgern said. “The truth is, we’re rolling with the punches anyway with no home course. It’s been unbelievably challenging, not just because we had so much turnover from last year, but because we don’t have a place to be. My boys always have to get my texts in the morning to find out where we’re going to be.
“You can say it’s a competitive disadvantage, but we’re not looking at it like that. We’re looking at it like we’re road warriors this year. We’re going to play more courses than anyone else. We’re kind of taking it on the chin, but we’re doing the best we can. It’s golf. We’re still loving it. It’s not like it’s a chore coming out here everyday.”
Like Spanish Springs, Reed will rely on its upperclassman leadership. The Raiders graduated seven seniors from last year‘s squad. Tyler Carnahan, the team’s captain, is a four-year player for the Blue and Gold, but he only traveled once last year so he doesn’t have a lot of tournament experience. David Hibler didn’t travel at all, but Nemsgern considers him the second best golfer on the team after making great strides. The third senior is Dylan McKenzie, who had the second best score for qualifying on Wednesday and is one of the school‘s top athletes.
However, Reed also has a younger player who is expected to put up some top scores in sophomore Trevor Wood, who tied for 14th at regionals as a freshman, one shot behind Spanish Springs’ Decker.
“I’ve got some seniors, but a lot of seniors don’t have experience playing,” Nemsgern said. “My best freshman from last year is our best stick this year. He’s a sophomore. His name is Trevor Wood. But honestly, of my 13 boys, eight of them are freshmen or sophomores. I expect a couple to contribute, but the truth is, besides my top four, I really don’t know who is going to qualify each week. Like today, two boys who I didn’t think were in my top eight, snuck in there at five and six. When the bottom half of your team is inconsistent, you never know what you’re going to get
“…We graduated three good golfers last year. I don’t want to say we have low expectations, but I guess my expectations ride on my older kids, my seniors who are always in the top four, plus my stick.”
While Nemsgern doesn’t know what to expect from his squad this season, he likes what he sees for the future.
“I do have high hopes for my program just because I’m young.,“ he said. “This year, we’re going to take whatever these seniors can carry us with. But next year I’ll expect more from my freshmen and sophomores. I do have a very promising freshman this year. His name is Tony Simonte. He‘s in my top five. He‘s a little stick. He actually finished fourth best in my tryouts. I expect him to give us something this year. Hopefully, he‘ll earn his letter.”
Just talking to Nemsgern for five minutes, one can see how passionate he is about this job. He currently is a science teacher at Mendive Middle School, where he has pretty much coached everything. He was also part of Reed basketball’s coaching staff for six years.
“I’ve wanted this job for a long time. People had to step away for me to get it,” Nemsgern said. “Danielle Fleiner, who is the girls coach and coached this team the past couple of years, established a good program. (Reed athletic director) Ron Coombs was nice enough to give me the job, and I expect to have it for a very long time…I coached Reed basketball for six years, but this is my dream job. I‘m excited for it, and I‘m excited to build a program for the future.”