Golf Preview

Early spring gives area golf teams a head start

By Joe Peine
Posted 4/10/24

The Prescott Cardinals will tee off their Middle Border Conference golf season on Monday in Altoona. With the weather improving, casual players may find themselves beginning to look wistfully at …

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Golf Preview

Early spring gives area golf teams a head start


The Prescott Cardinals will tee off their Middle Border Conference golf season on Monday in Altoona. With the weather improving, casual players may find themselves beginning to look wistfully at clubs. Meanwhile, the Prescott golf team has already been practicing and will be hitting the links this week for their first competition of the year.

More has changed with the team than the freshmen and seniors as erstwhile Head Coach Jay Bartsch departed the program in the offseason after 22 years. In his place, seven-year veteran assistant coach Scott Hamilton will be taking the helm.

“This will be my eighth year coaching golf but first as the head coach,” Hamilton said. “I played golf in Ellsworth in high school during one of the most competitive stretches they've had and was on JV the year they won the State Championship in 2000 and Varsity the two years following where we made runs to the Sectional Tournament each year. I’ve played golf since around second grade and still enjoy playing when I can.”

Coach Hamilton says the biggest change for the team this year beyond skippers will be the expansion of their schedule to include more tournaments. 

“We are going to Reedsburg for a tournament in mid-April and also got into a two-day event at Troy Burne and White Eagle, which are two of the premier courses in our area,” Hamilton said. “We are also getting our roster numbers back up from post-COVID where we saw a really big dip down into the 7-8 range, where this year we have 15 boys currently signed up. This will help our future and also bring more competition at practice for JV and varsity spots.”

Last year Prescott had a fairly successful season, shooting some of their lowest team scores in years with a 176 average. 

“Many years that would be enough for a top half finish in our conference but recently the MBC has been very competitive,” Hamilton said. “We ended up seventh last year. Amery won the conference and made it to the State Tournament, and they return much of their team from last year. After that though this year I feel we could push for a Top 3 finish or better.”

Tyler Reiter was Prescott’s #1 golfer last year and earned an All-Conference spot. He returns as one of the favorites for overall conference medalist this year. He has been to the Sectional Tournament both his freshman and sophomore years and missed going to State last year by one stroke as an individual.

“We lose two seniors from last year in Evan Radke and Benny Olson but look to fill those shoes with Cayden Johnson and Harris Linderholm. Cayden was our top JV player last year, and Harris is returning to the team from a year off with injury,” Hamilton said. “With Sam Vesperman and Luke Kinneman returning, we have a good, experienced core returning to push for that high conference finish and first sectional appearance as a team. A few underclassmen and one senior behind them could push to maybe get some varsity matches in as well.”

Hamilton says spring golf, which can definitely be a frustrating endeavor with weather, has been somewhat better this season.

“We had 60 degrees in February and snow our first week of official practice. Although, with that warmer weather and many local courses opening up early for a few weeks, it did help many of our top golfers as they were able to get out and play before the season started,” Hamilton said. “Simulators are also a great technological tool we Northerners get to use now, and many of the boys were able to get some swings in on those on their own as well before the season started.”

Cardinal golf fans won’t have to wait long to see the fruits of this extra labor as Prescott will travel to Altoona on Monday to play their first conference meet of the season. Tee off for that event is at 4 p.m.

River Falls

With the ever-present caveat for spring sports of “depending on the weather” in full effect, the River Falls Wildcats will play their first Big Rivers Conference meet of the season on Monday in Hudson.

Last season, the Wildcats finished in fourth place at sectionals. Head Coach Tim LaVold says they were pretty disappointed as they were hoping to compete for a State Tournament berth, but as a team, they just didn't have a very good day.

“On the positive side, Aidan Carufel advanced to the State Tournament as an individual, which was a surprise, but also highlighted what can happen with hard work and determination,” LaVold said. “It was great to see him end his high school career at the state tournament.”

The River Falls golf program lost three seniors to graduation last spring in Matthew Marsollek, who is currently playing college golf at UW-Parkside; Aidan Carufel, who is playing college basketball at St. Scholastica, and Austin Harer.

Returning players from last year’s team are senior Will Benedict, junior Connor O'Malley and sophomore Ryan Swanson. Jaxon Flanagan lettered last season and would have returned this season, but he suffered a knee injury in hockey that will sideline him for the duration of the golf season.

With the best part of spring nigh upon us, River Falls readies themselves for their annual opening day event in the Hudson Invitational, which as usual is scheduled for the second Monday in April.

“It usually gets moved because of weather, but it's looking good that we will play it this year. Also, the first BRC meet at Eau Claire North is a little early this year, but that is because the weather is good,” LaVold said. “The top golfers are all getting instruction and playing on simulators all winter, so they are used to swinging their clubs, but it does take a few weeks to really get their games going coming out of the winter season. Usually by the beginning of May everyone is playing pretty good.”

Coach LaVold says they have a strong top 3 this year, and they have a few guys that have a good chance to make them a tough out for anybody they face. He says that how far this team can go will come down to whether the other guys can step up and reach their potential.

The journey to find out whether or not the full talent of this team will be realized and can succeed in reaching the heights that last year’s squad fell short of begins this Monday at Troy Burne Golf Course in Hudson.

“I am expecting that Eau Claire Memorial and Hudson will be tough again this year, so realistically competing for third place in the BRC is where I see us, but if things fall into place we could be right there battling for the title,” LaVold said. “It should be a fun season.”


The Ellsworth Panthers boys’ golf team will travel to Altoona on Monday for its first Middle Border meet of the season.

After a long winter off, the guys have had more time than usual this spring to knock the dust off their games as conference season approaches. For a Panther program that finished in the Top 3 in MBC play last season, they will be looking to build on that and climb those last couple rungs to the top.

The program as a whole is largely unchanged, and Carson Huppert is at the helm once again as head coach for another year of competitive golf play.

“Last year we did well in the conference by taking third overall,” Huppert said. “That gave us an opportunity to make a state run, but ultimately, we were unsuccessful.” 

As with all high school sports, teams are cyclical. This rings true for the Panthers this year as they lost three of their top five golfers in the offseason.

“We have two guys coming back from last year in Thomas Tober and Trey Wittenberg, and we will be leaning on them to play at a high level and help the newcomers,” Huppert said. “I think Trey has a chance to compete for an individual conference championship, and Thomas Tober is looking for an opportunity to be All-Conference.”

Huppert says they will be rounding out the rest of the team with some new faces, and they still need to get out and play before he has a general idea who they might be. This situation should become clearer after the team’s first meet this week.

The Panthers were supposed kick off the season by playing in Eau Claire on Monday, but that recently got shifted to Altoona.

Spring Valley

The Spring Valley Cardinals golf team played its first meet of the season on Thursday at Valley Golf Course in Mondovi.

Head Coach Tyler Anderson is entering his fourth year running the golf program for the Cardinals, and he thinks they come into the season with a bit more experience than they’ve had in recent years.

With Spring Valley not having the numbers to support two golf teams, they are able to cherry pick from the entire student body for the best players it has to offer, and almost all of them have been here before.

 “We had our top player Phoebe Vodnik graduate last year, but I expect a couple of players to hopefully really step up and fill her void,” Anderson said. “Seniors Sam Steinmeyer and Mara Ducklow are the top returning players from last year, but we only have one player on our roster who hasn’t competed at the varsity level before.”

Anderson says he noticed a jump in quality of play as last year’s Dunn-St. Croix golf season progressed, and he hopes to see that upward trend continue as they look to build towards competing for a conference championship.

“Last year, we definitely improved from the previous season, but there is still a lot of room for growth,” Anderson said. “We jumped up a division in the postseason due to our co-op and competed with the bigger schools in Division 2. We had a couple golfers place well individually, just not quite high enough to move on to sectionals.”

With the team’s first round in the books, Anderson views the team’s finish as sort of ho hum when compared to their overall potential. 

“We did okay in our first match of the season, but expectations weren’t super high due to the fact that was our first time being on a golf course all season,” Anderson said. “Mara Ducklow was our best score with a 51, and I thought she played really well given the circumstances. There is certainly room for growth with our whole team, and I look forward to spending more practice time on the course.” 

Coach Anderson says there has been a high level of anticipation and excitement from the team in advance of the season, which he says is a good sign as they look to improve on last year’s fourth place finish in Dunn-St. Croix Conference play.

Looking forward, the team will play twice this week. First up is a road match at Rolling Greens in Durand, and then the Cardinals return home to play at Spring Valley Golf Course on Thursday. Tee off for both rounds is at 4:30 p.m.

Prescott Cardinals, River Falls Wildcats, Ellsworth Panthers, Spring Valley Cardinals, boys golf, Middle Border, Big Rivers, Dunn-St. Croix