There weren’t many Niwot names on the top half of the leaderboard after Northern League event #1 at the Olde Course on Aug. 8, but Ed Weaver didn’t expect there to be. With three inexperienced golfers in the varsity lineup, the fifth-year coach is working on a new strategy that probably won’t produce many tournament titles in 2019.
“We are a young team, with basically no seniors, so we have the opportunity to develop some new players,” he said. “I want to try to get as many kids tournament experience as I can.”
It’s a strategy that could require some patience. The Cougars finished fifth overall in the team standings, a far cry from their first place finish in the 2018 season opener on the same course. However, that was less important to Weaver than the fact that he now has three more golfers with a taste for high school competition.
“They’re not necessarily young from a class standpoint,” he said. “But they’re three guys who’ve hardly played any events.”
Fortunately for Weaver, graduation didn’t leave his cupboard completely bare. The Cougars were led on the day by sophomore Christopher Gunlickson, one of two returning players with varsity experience. Impressive down the stretch during his freshman season, Weaver projects he will be Niwot’s number one golfer for the foreseeable future and expects to see him contend for a state tournament berth.
Gunlickson carded an 80 (+8) at the Olde Course to finish fourth overall, a 21-stroke improvement from his 23rd place finish the year before. He was a symmetrical +4 on both the front and back, and stayed out of double-bogey territory for the most part. Weaver was happy with the sophomore’s round, and said he expects to see Gunlickson’s scores come down even further as the season progresses. “Christopher played well, and his score would have been even lower if he’d made some putts.”
Also back for the Cougars is junior Luc Blondeau who has been thrust into the role of elder statesman for the Niwot boys golf team. He will fill the number two spot for the Cougars this season and also has postseason potential. However, like his coach, Blondeau’s focus is a little further down the road.
“It’s exciting because you can see all the potential in the players coming up,” the third-year player said. “It’s going to be a good rebuilding year, so we’ll be set up to do well next year.”
Blondeau was happy to be back in Loveland at his favorite league course, and had fond memories of the thunderstorm that cut short his high school golf debut in 2017. Back in the present, he finished in 13th place, with a 92 (+20), a score Weaver also expects to see come down.
“Luc has to take the big numbers off the card—that’s the biggest thing for him,” the coach said. “His swing is more solid than it was last year, and he’s just got to get tournament tough.”
Rounding out the Niwot quintet were junior Jesse Horn (+56), sophomore Ian Turner (+41), and freshman Ryan Lady (+46), who has been playing golf since age five, but only started getting serious about six months ago.
“I played Ryan Lady today because I wanted to give him the opportunity,” Weaver said. “I don’t care how he finishes, but he’ll be out here competing, and we’ll see what he can do.”
Weaver said any of the new golfers have a chance to make the varsity lineup permanently, and he is looking forward to seeing what develops down the stretch.
“What I do see is the opportunity for a number of different players to play in varsity events this season. High school golf is cyclical, and we’re just playing for the next up-cycle with some of these younger guys.”
The 2019 boys golf season continues on Aug. 13, when the Cougars host league event #2 at Twin Peaks GC. On Aug. 19, the team heads to Greeley, then on Aug. 20 they are back at Twin Peaks. Weaver will be assisted this year by Chad Richart.