Total Team Effort Lifts Lancers

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When it came down to handing out end of the year awards for the Lincolnwood High School golf team, Coach Verne Pinkston had a tough decision to make.

“Every night it was somebody different,” Pinkston said in regards to his team’s best player. “How do you pick an MVP out of that? So I just gave each of the senior letter winners a plaque.”

It was a fair compromise  for the Lincolnwood girls (more on them in a separate article) and the Lincolnwood boys this year, each of whom were led by a trio of seniors, five of whom had played all four years.

The boys’ team expanded that balance even further, though, as just six strokes separated the averages of the Lancers’ top six on the season.

“That was how we had to play. We had to have everyone playing well,”  said Pinkston, whose team went 28-3 this year and captured the program’s first regional championship since 2009. “We had a lot of matches where everyone was playing well; but we didn’t get medalist, but we still won the match.”

In almost half of their matches the Lancers didn’t have the low shooter, with opponents claiming medalist honors in six of the 13 meets, including three on Lincolnwood’s home course.

Despite that, the Lancers never lost at Shoal Creek Golf Course in Raymond, going 9-0 on their home fairways. Their final time playing at Shoal Creek was Oct. 1, when they defeated Northwestern and South County; the latter being their most frequent opponent as the final win was their fourth of the year over the Vipers, not including the victory in the MSM Conference Tournament.

That night, it was Michael Jones’ turn to lead the way for the Lancers. Jones, one of the three four-year seniors for Lincolnwood, shot a 40 that night and helped the Lancers to a seven stroke victory over South County.

Unofficially on the season, Jones was second on the team in strokes per nine holes with 43.56 and was one of their strongest performers in the postseason. After shooting an 83 at the regional in Jacksonville, Lincolnwood’s third best score, Jones carded a 92 at the Sherrard Regional at Fyre Lake National Golf Course, good enough for 29th overall and second on the team.

Lincolnwood’s best postseason rounds would come from the other two senior varsity letter winners, Braxton Schmedeke and Devin Brown.

Schmedeke, one of the players from Lincolnwood’s co-op partner, Morrisonville High School, shot a stellar 79 at the Jacksonville Routt Regional to finish fifth in the individual ranks and pace the Lancers.

He would also post a scoring round in the sectional, contributing a 93 to tie for 33rd as the Lancers finished in a tie for fourth as a team with a 366. For the season, Schmedeke would average a 45.92 for nine holes, but was one of four Lancers to earn medalist honors on the season with a 40 at Shoal Creek on Sept. 3. 

Brown would be steady at both events as well, contributing two of the best rounds at the regional and sectional. Brown, who averaged a 44.83 per nine holes during the season, shot an 82 at the regional to tie for eighth, the Lancers’ second best round, then carded a team-best 88 at the sectional to end his prep career on a high note with a 16th place finish.

In addition to the three senior letter winners, the Lancers also had two first-year senior players on the roster this year. Morrisonville senior Jhadyn Walker, who would normally be playing football for Mohawks’ co-op partner South Fork, and Graham Gunn, of Lincolnwood, both earned JV letters.

Pinkston will rely on the other three returning varsity letter winners, sophomore Nate Brockmeyer and juniors Will Jenkins and Michael Graham, to be the base of next year’s team.

Brockmeyer led the Lancers in stroke average at 41.58 and medalled a team-best four times. He also shot the best individual round of the year, a 1-over-par 37 in Lincolnwood’s second match of the season at Shoal Creek on Sept. 24.

Jenkins averaged 44.25 strokes per nine holes and went on a tear in the middle of the season, earning medalist honors twice during a four match stretch where he shot 40-39-41-41. He has potential to continue that kind of play with more consistency next year.

Michael Graham would be a solid sixth man for the Lancers, averaging a 47.5 per nine holes, never shooting worse than a 54 during the season. Graham’s best round came at home at Shoal Creek with a 43, but he was often in the mid-40s during the season.

Filling the other three spots will be a combination of players who got practice time on JV this past season, starting with Drake Germann, who played one varsity match, the first match of the year. Germann shot a 50 in place of Jones in his lone appearance, a solid 2020 debut.

The only other player to see varsity action outside the top six was Levi Weir, who played golf this year after two years of soccer. Weir played in two matches when Jones was injured and subbed in for Graham in the sectional, shooting a 104 to finish 66th overall. It’s uncertain what Weir’s plans are for his senior year, when soccer season isn’t expected to be affected by COVID-19.

Others in the mix for varsity will be current juniors Colton Tischkau and George Schoenherr and this year’s two freshmen, Brady Schmedeke and Lance Weitekamp.

While this was Lincolnwood’s first regional win since 2009, the Lancers have built up a solid program since it began 30 years ago in 1991. In those 30 seasons, Lincolnwood has won 791 matches and has never had a losing season.

If next year’s Lancers can emulate this year’s team, with everyone stepping up when they need to, there is no sign of that streak coming to a close any time soon.

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