COLUMBIA — Amid the demands of being a high school basketball player, Rock Bridge senior Will Echelmeier still found ways to work on his golf game.
"We had Sundays off, so I was able to get a quick nine in or shoot a few holes once in a while," Echelmeier said. "On days where we got out of practice early, and I didn't have homework, I would go out and chip or putt just to keep my skills sharp."
Echelmeier, who finished in a tie for 14th in the state as an individual last season, will need to make sure that all aspects of his game are in good shape if he and his Bruins teammates hope to defend their Class 2 state golf championship.
The Bruins will be without Wilson Sundvold, who placed third in the state last year and is now on the golf team at Missouri. But Bruins coach Doug Daniels said he anticipates the younger members of his team will step up and contribute in a big way.
"Our underclassmen have a lot to live up to, but so far, I think they are doing a great job," Daniels said. "We have three or four young guys pushing the top five. That motivates those guys. The more competition there is on a team, the better the team will be."
Echelmeier will be joined atop the Bruins lineup by fellow senior and all-stater Austin Evans.
Evans shot a 72 in his final round at the state tournament last year to tie Echelmeier for 14th in the state.
As Rock Bridge gears up to defends its title, Hickman coach Clark Swisher is just focused on making his team better. Swisher said he is most concerned with improving his team's fundamentals and turning the members of his team he calls "good athletes" into "good golfers."
"We have a young team with nine freshman and we have a few players who are very athletic that just need to practice," Swisher said. "Our main goal is to get a few strokes better every time we go out on the course."
Swisher said he expects senior Matt Garner and sophomore Carter Cox to lead the Kewpies in a season-opening match against the Bruins set for 3:45 p.m. Tuesday at Lake of the Woods Golf Course.
Garner was a sectional finalist last year and Cox's brother Taylor is a golfer at SIU-Edwardsville.