Expectations haven't changed for the Demons
After going to the state tournament five years in a row and winning four straight Southeast Conference titles, those have become the annual expectations for the Washington boys’ golf team.
“We have high expectations,” Washington head coach Mark Berhow said. “We have expectations that we should win the conference. We fully expect to get back to state again.”
The Demons lost three of their top four golfers from last year’s squad, which took sixth place at state, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The expectations of the team have not changed.
“This is just reloading,” Berhow said. “The next guys are in. I think we’ve developed that sense of success in the program, and we want to maintain that.”
Still, Berhow knows that replacing Alex Thode, Brock Kimball and Jake Redlinger, who graduated last spring, won’t be easy. But the Demons have lost other quality golfers in the past, and they just keep churning out conference championships and getting back to the state tournament.
“Every year we seem like we lose some really quality players,” Berhow said. “We don’t try to replace them. We try to have the guys who are on the team currently to do their best and to improve and to be as strong of a player as they can. I think we’ve got some guys who can step up and fill those shoes.”
This year’s squad will be led by senior Dillon de Perrot, who was a sectional champion and district runner-up for the Demons last season. Following the high school season, de Perrot won the 16-18 age group at the Iowa Games, and he won the junior and overall club championships at the Washington Golf and Country Club.
“I have high expectations for him, and he does for himself,” Berhow said. “I think he’s going to have a great season.”
Berhow expects de Perrot not only to lead the Demons with low scores, but also by helping teach some of the team’s younger golfers.
“He’s a great leader for us on and off the course,” Berhow said. “When we’re practicing, he’s like an assistant coach. I think [his teammates] have a great deal of respect for him. He understands the techniques of the game and all of the different things that go along with having a good swing. They’ll ask him questions as well. He’ll volunteer to give critiques and suggestions on things. That’s helpful.”
As a junior, de Perrot struggled at times and was lights out at others. His score didn’t count when the Demons won their fourth straight SEC championship on May 8. But three days later de Perrot was the individual sectional champion, leading Washington to its fifth-straight sectional title. This year, de Perrot plans to be more consistent.
“He set some goals, and one of his individual goals is to have every round in the 30s,” Berhow said. “I think that is a very do-able goal.”
Berhow felt that senior Connor Davey and junior Ryan Waite, who were both on the varsity squad at the end of last season and competed at the state tournament, will be improved this year, too.
“Connor has improved tremendously from the end of last year,” Berhow said. “I think he can improve four or five strokes from last year. Ryan is showing improvement as well.”
With de Perrot, Davey and Waite returning from last year’s state tournament squad, they will be the foundation for Washington’s success this season.
“I think we’ve got a very good core to work around,” Berhow said. “Those three are really going to be key for our team to be successful.”
Blake Weidman played on the varsity squad three times last season as a freshman, and he shot a 43 to score for the team in a meet at Fairfield on April 16. But Weidman will be counted on much more this season.
“There were some openings with Jake Redlinger being at track, so he had some opportunities [to play varsity], and he played well in a few of those,” Berhow said of Weidman. “His swing has improved from last year to this year. He’s definitely one we’re going to depend on this year.”
Derek Anding is a freshman who will get a chance to play varsity this season. He’s a promising young talent, Berhow said.
“Derek has a good swing, and he understands the game of golf,” Berhow said. “I think he’s going to be a very good golfer before it’s all done.”
The team’s sixth varsity spot is a bit up in the air. Seniors Jake Dickinson and Tyler Hazelett, along with freshman Lane Burlingame, are in the mix for the final spot.
Berhow hasn’t had a lot of time to evaluate his 11 golfers. Since beginning practice on March 15, the team has only been out on the course twice due to unseasonably cold weather and muddy conditions.
“It’s been a challenge, but every other team is facing the same challenge we are of having lack of time on the course,” Berhhow said.
Because of that, the scores at Thursday’s season opener against Mt. Pleasant on Thursday, which will be played at the Washington Golf and Country Club, could be a bit higher than normal. But Berhow hopes that his team can quickly find its groove and post scores that will make it competitive every time out.
“I think we can have a good season,” he said. “If we can limit our fourth score to not be above 24, we’ll be competitive in every meet. We’ve got some high expectations, but I’m encouraged.”