When the Belleville East Lancers open their 2015 season on Thursday at the Goalby-Haas Golf Tournament at St. Clair Country Club, coach Terry Neutzling will have one simple goal.
While there is nothing more Neutzling would enjoy more then to watch his team win the title, he’ll settle for being competitive.
“That’s what we want to do is be competitive and I think we will. We shot 326 one day in qualifying and another we shot 160 for nine holes. Those are decent scores and I think we’ll have a chance to be competitive in the (Southwestern) conference,” Neutzling said. “Teams like Belleville (West) and O’Fallon I think are reloading a little bit and I think it’s going to be a case where if we play well then we’ve got a chance to beat them. And is they play well, they could beat us.
“But I like that. I like that we’ll come out every match and compete. If we do that, then we’ve got a chance to have a successful season.”
Neutzling is also upbeat about a large and talented freshman class, some of which could be battling for a spot at the bottom of the varsity lineup by the end of the season. As for now, Neutzling is counting heavily on his upperclassmen — more specifically a group of four juniors who presently hold down four of the top five spots in the lineup.
Junior Austin Galloway has assumed the role as the Lancers’ No. 1 player after a solid sophomore season, while David Rauckman — the lone senior of the group — is playing the No. 2 spot.
Junior Adam Siddle has made the climb from the junior-varsity lineup to the top of the Lancers’ varsity roster and is the No. 3 player. Two more juniors, Davis Winn and Andrew O’Bryan, complete the Lancers’ top five to start the season.
“I like the fact that most of these kids stepped up and worked on their games this summer more than maybe they have in the past,” Neutzling said. “That they are juniors makes it even better, because if they continue to work on their games and improve, than we’ll have them back again next year.
“Then with the younger kids we have coming, the future looks a little brighter.”
Galloway, a Class 3A sectional qualifier a year ago, will lead the way.
One of the longest players off the tee for the Lancers in the coaching tenure of Neutzling, the Lancers’ top player could become one of the best in the metro east if he can keep the ball in play.
“Austin is a player so long off the tee to where when a lot of players are hitting six-iron or seven-iron coming in, he’s hitting pitching wedge,” Neutzling said. “I told him that he could swing half as hard and still have a short iron coming into the green. He’s just that long. I think he gets it a little better this year.”
Rauckman is a two-year letterwinner and one of the Lancers’ captains while Siddle, when healthy, can shoot some low numbers.
“David (Rauckman) is just very steady. He’s one of the guys we’ll look to be a leader this season,” Neutzling said. “ Adam (Siddle) has really improved his game. The thing is that he’s had a back problem, so we may have to monitor the number of 18-hole events he plays this year.”
Among the others vying for playing time will be Garrett Dahm, James Davis, Daniel Frew, Jerid McKinney, Kenneth Duncombe and Christian Fruechte.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.