WESTBROOK — The success of the Westbrook-Walnut Grove boys golf team (which has a 17-2 record this year) can be linked to both communities.
There’s the 9-hole course in Westbrook and a self-made driving range on a piece of land behind the middle school in Walnut Grove.
Practice — i.e., repetitions — on both has helped the Chargers capture the Red Rock Conference championship in five of the past six years.
WWG added to its list Tuesday with a 343-350 win over Red Rock Central.
“To be honest, we don’t have a driving range,” Chargers’ coach Carter Ross said.
He traces the success of WWG teams, including the girls, to a Wednesday practice in Walnut Grove.
“We have a big area (behind the school),” said Ross, who is coaching in his 10th season. “We have a ton of balls. We hit hundreds of balls.”
The area is about 250-260 yards long, and several of the WWG boys can reach that distance with their driver.
“We’ve added range equipment, and the kids hit 120 balls,” Ross said. “That’s attributed to our success — that repetition. We started that (Wednesday practice) five years ago.
“Without that, the kids go out to putt for a half hour and play. Golf is like any other sport. You get better with repetitions.”
Coach John Amundson spearheads the workouts at Walnut Grove, to the point where he might have to fish golf balls out of the ditch, which is part of the driving range.
“We work on chipping, long irons, long woods, hitting it straight,” Ross said.”
On Wednesdays, the Westbrook course is off limits for the high school golfers since its Men’s Day.
“With a nice spring, you have members out there and you can’t whack 4-5 drives on each hole,” Ross said. “You can’t do that with people out there golfing. It doesn’t work.”
That’s where the driving range in Walnut Grove comes in handy.
“It’s our spot on Wednesdays. It’s worked out well,” Ross said.
The extra practice has paid dividends for the WWG golfers.
The winning streak continued Tuesday in the conference meet.
Monday, WWG won a tie-breaker to beat Red Rock Central on its own course in Sanborn.
“That gave us some confidence,” Ross said. “In 10 years, we’ve probably only won 4-5 times over there. That’s a tough course for us to play.
“I think we had to be one of the (conference) favorites. But, you still have to put the rounds together. It was a nice win for the kids.”
Tuesday was a wet, windy day — comparable to many this spring.
“It wasn’t a nice day,” Ross said. “But, there wasn’t anything else they could do. I don’t know if the weather has affected us that much. I know they are getting sick of playing in it.”
In a decade of coaching golf, Ross has never seen a spring like this year.
“We’ve had meets on a day where it was 70 degrees, and two days later, it’s a snowstorm,” he said. “We’ve had one nice day.
“The spring is so short. You have a small window (of opportunity to play). It’s bad enough with the rain, but when you get snow every week(end). It’s unfortunate for the kids. But you don’t hear much complaining.”
Rather, they’ve responded positively.
“We’ve dealt with class trips and band trips — all that stuff,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of distractions. We’d like to have played more. We lost the Lakeview tournament. That would have been our first test for 18 holes.”
Monday, the Chargers face their biggest test this season.
That’s when they compete in the sub-section meet at the Worthington Country Club.
The top two teams — plus top six individuals — qualify for sectional play later in Marshall.
The sub-section format is different this year as high school golf in Minnesota has gone to three classes. It’s been two classes in the past.
That’s meant WWG had to compete with Windom Area, Jackson County Central and Redwood Valley. The latter two schools are now in Class AA.
“We haven’t played Windom yet. You have to grind it out. All we have to do is get in the top two (teams) to get to Marshall. With four teams, anything can happen in a one-deal day. That’s the plan we are taking,” Ross said.
The Chargers’ lineup consists of junior Derek Eichner, senior Austin Quade, sophomore Patrick Schweim, freshman Jared Lindaman, junior Brandon Jenniges and seventh-grader Taylor Lindaman.
At the conference meet, they shot 83, 92, 83, 85, 93 and 97, respectively.
Eichner (second), Schweim (fourth) and J. Lindaman (sixth) were named to the All-Conference team.
The Chargers’ pace-setter is Eichner, whose father, Duane, is the groundskeeper in Westbrook.
His — and his teammates — success formula is simple: Get on the course.
“Derek is a course rat,” Ross said. “He plays a lot. The Lindaman boys play all summer. Quade plays enough. Schweim plays. They all play a lot.
“When we’re done at (Wednesday) practice, hitting a 100 balls, they try to get to Westbrook and get on the course. It’s not enough to hit balls. They want to play.”