Season preview: Oconto Falls looking for new golfers to step up

Rathsack, Pecha only starters back for Panthers
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Oconto Falls’ Clayton Rathsack prepares to take a swing during an early season practice. Rathsack made the North Eastern Conference honorable mention team last year. (Contributed photo)

Heading into the spring season, the Oconto Falls High School boys golf team is hoping to have some new golfers rise to the challenge.

Just two of the Panthers golfers, senior Chase Pecha and junior Clayton Rathsack, are back from last year’s starting five. That means Oconto Falls must replace three starters going into the tough North Eastern Conference.

Still, the Panthers are confident they can have a memorable season.

“The season expectations will be to compete for the top half of the conference,” Oconto Falls coach Scott Schroeder said. “We will be young with little varsity experience from three of our five spots, so it is important to have a nice spring to help develop and enhance their skills.”

Oconto Falls placed eighth in the NEC a season ago before taking eighth at regionals. The team’s lone sectional qualifier, Ryan Morris, has since graduated, meaning Rathsack is the team’s top returning golfer.

Rathsack finished just four shots back of making sectionals last spring. Coach Schroeder sees big things in store for the junior.

“Clayton Rathsack is a two-year varsity player that should be able to step into one of the better golfers in our conference,” Schroeder said.

Pecha will give the young team a senior to turn to as the season gets rolling.

Outside of Rathsack and Pecha, it will be a wait-and-see game for who might help round out the team.

Evan Jaeger, Connor Romandine and Joshua Saari are a trio of sophomores that might make the jump to varsity competition this spring.

Junior Joey Walters and senior Bodee Woods are new to the team, but are also options to help fill out a five-golfer team.

While the NEC might prove tough on the young Panthers, Schroeder says that competition will be beneficial to the team come regional time.

Oconto Falls is slated to compete in the Division 2 Bonduel Regional on either May 21 or May 22 against teams from Amherst, Bonduel, Clintonville, Marinette, Menominee Indian/Gresham, Mosinee, Peshtigo, Seymour and Wittenberg-Birnamwood.

Any qualifiers will then advance to the Mosinee Sectional on May 28 or May 29.

Lena

Much like Oconto Falls in the NEC, Lena has a tough road ahead in the Marinette & Oconto Conference.

“We are extremely young and inexperienced but should have some competition to make up a full squad,” Lena coach John Moe said.

Last year, the Wildcats had just two golfers, Dalton Thompson and Brance Bethke, compete in the Lena Regional.

Neither golfer advanced to sectionals, but both are back this season as just sophomores.

With experience under their belts, it should help the duo improve as the course. That experience could also lead to both golfers serving as leaders and offering up guidance to their other teammates.

This year, Lena will compete in the Division 3 Oneida Nation Regional against teams from Gibraltar, Green Bay NEW Lutheran/Providence, Marion, Oconto, Oneida Nation, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sevastopol and Shiocton on either May 21 or May 22.

Qualifiers from that regional will advance to the Crivitz Sectional on May 28.

The state meet will take place June 3-4 at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona.