BELLEVILLE — After a long period of mediocrity, the Belleville West Maroons may be ready to rejoin the upper echelon of boys golf programs in southern Illinois.
Led by one of the top players in the Southwestern Conference in junior Cade Dibadj, West opened its season last week with a respectable (four-man) total of 321 as it placed ninth in the Alton Tee-Off Classic at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course.
The finish in the 22-team event, although solid, didn't receive the full endorsement of veteran coach Clayton Fisher.
"It was a solid start. But I think our team is capable going lower than 321. Our goal for tournaments this season will be 315 or lower,'' Fisher said. "Depthwise, this as good as we've been since the team that went to state 10 years ago. I'm looking for a good season.''
With Dibadj, who tied for 35th in the Class 3A State Tournament in 2011 and seven of its top eight players returning, West should be a real threat.
Dibadj tuned up for his junior season with a solid summer of tournament golf, then carried that over to a four-round tryout tournament where he finished 7-under par.
Included among that total was a five-under par total of 66 at Triple Lakes Golf Course where the Maroons play their home matches.
"I don't know if we'll see any 65s or 66s, but I certainly think Cade can be right around par every time out. He's got that kind of ability,'' Fisher said. "He had a very good summer and I look for a good season.''
But Dibadj is just part of the story for the 2012 Maroons.
Also back are seniors Chris Bernosky and Nick Singsank along with juniors Michael Len and Parker Beine. All four players were among the Maroons top eight a year ago.
"The seniors have played since they were freshmen and I know they would like to go out with good seasons," Fisher said. "Nick is a very solid player and Chris shot a 78 at Alton so he's off to a good start as well. I would just like to see him be a little more consistent.
"Parker (Beine) was a sectional qualifier and just missed qualifying for state by a stroke or two and so he's capable of playing very well. Then we've got Michael (Len) who might be our most improved player.''
Senior Ryan Lotz and juniors Trevor Brown and Drew Renner round out the Maroons' top eight players.
Fisher said the biggest improvement he sees in his team is maturity.
"With younger players, a lot of times when they make a double or triple bogey on a hole it stays with them for the next hole or next two holes instead of just forgetting about it,'' Fisher said. "I think this group is mature enough to where a bad hole won't bother them as much as say it did a year ago.''