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Spring Preview

Trojan golfers eyeing third straight state trip

By MICHAEL LEACH, Ledger sports editor | Apr 01, 2013
Photo by: MICHAEL LEACH/Ledger photo Landon Gamrath, pictured, is one of Fairfield’s top returning golfers.

Golf has never looked easier in Fairfield.

That’s especially true at the high school, where the Trojan boys’ golf program has experienced an unprecedented amount of success over the past four-plus years. As a team, Fairfield has earned trips to the state tournament three of the past four seasons and four times since 2007 — more than any other program at Fairfield High School.

The Trojans have finished eighth at state each of the past two seasons, and their top finish came in 2009 when they ended up sixth in the state. Most recently in 2012, the Mick Flattery-led squad earned a 51-13 record overall, won three regular season tournaments and were named district champs.

There might be no slowing them down anytime soon, either.

Now in the 11th season under Flattery, the Trojans look to reload following the departures of graduates Davis Lowenberg (2012 avg: 38.25) and Cody Kool (avg: 39.7). Both seniors were three-time state qualifiers in their careers, and both finished in the top 25 of last spring’s state tournament.

“Of course, Davis and Cody played all four years and will be huge losses,” Flattery said.

The Trojans also lost to graduation another consistent scorer in CJ Shipman, but the rest of the varsity scorecard returns intact.

Juniors Landon Gamrath, Matt Carr and Alex Shier are all returning letter winners and state tournament qualifiers from last season.

Carr, an All-SEC selection last year, and Gamrath have been major pieces on the varsity squad since their freshmen campaigns and look to fill in the top spots held for so long by Lowenberg and Kool. Carr shot a 41.92 average while Gamrath was close behind with a 42.44 last spring.

Meanwhile, Shier (avg: 42.51) had a breakout sophomore season on his way to claiming the team’s Rookie of the Year award and has shown the capability to keep up with his two classmates. Among Shier’s accomplishments in 2012 include an individual third-place finish at the Osky Invite and a fifth-place score at the Fairfield Invite. He also played an important role in the Trojans’ postseason run, shooting the third lowest score on the team at sectionals.

“We’re looking forward to having three lettermen return,” said Flattery. “Matt, Landon and Alex look to take off on accomplishments that they earned last season.”

Aside from the three well known quantities, plenty of newcomers have shown promise in the little time they’ve had on the course this spring.

Junior Joseph Hietpas and freshman Nick Higgins lead the group of new faces, and Flattery expects both to contribute at the varsity level right away.

“Joseph has started out really well. He has played in a few varsity meets before, so he has had a taste of that competition,” said Flattery. “Nick also has started out playing really well. Nick has played in several junior events prior to his high school career.”

A number of others will be battling for the final spot in the lineup at season’s start. Seniors in the mix include Gabe Hull, Ben Hull, Jon Anderson and Wyatt Andersen. Juniors are Vince Horras, Dillon Shelby and Austin Shelby, and Colton Stacy is the team’s only sophomore.

And although some of the lineup is untested at the varsity level, Flattery believes his golfers will maintain Fairfield’s status as one of southeast Iowa’s premier programs.

“I’m looking forward to another good season. The guys want to win the conference and return back to state,” said Flattery. “We can’t wait to get started.”

Flattery has the benefit of coaching a deep squad of 22, bolstered by the arrival of 10 new freshmen. In addition to Higgins, freshmen Alex Crile, Nathan Davison, Marshal Fiske, James Kyle, Brody Malone, Gavin Stever, Drew Stever, Tristan Ledger and Trevor Drish are hitting the links this spring.

“It’s great to see a lot of guys out, and the guys really love to play,” he added.

The Trojans also have the benefit of a tough schedule which should only make them stronger golfers by the time conference and sectionals roll around in May.

“Our schedule with the tournaments that we go to are going to be really competitive,” he said. “We will see Centerville a lot and their [returning state individual champ] Michael Moorman. They will be strong. Pella returns several players along with a very good Williamsburg team.”

As usual, the Trojans will be a frontrunner to win the Southeast Conference along with perennially tough rival Washington. Like Fairfield, the Demons qualified for state last season — their fifth straight time — and return three varsity lettermen.

Fairfield begins the 2013 season next Monday vs. Eddyville-Blakesburg at Harvest Point in Oskaloosa. They then will compete at the Albia Invite on April 9.

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