The team has only been practicing since Aug. 6, so it is natural for Marshalltown High School's first-year boys' golf coach Lucas Johnson to not have a strong grasp of his squad this early in the campaign.
He knows who the first five starters are likely to be and knows that the sixth spot in the lineup is still being battled for by several underclassmen for Tuesday's season- and home opening dual against Mason City.
"I am a teacher first, so right now, we are trying to find out what it takes for each player to improve his score," said Johnson, who will teach English at Miller Middle School. "We've been working during this early part of the season on improving the weaknesses. I want to do what I can to improve everyone's game from top to bottom."
Johnson comes to Marshalltown from Appleton, Wis., where he coached basketball. He does have a connection to the community, however, as his wife - Ashley Buzbee - is a 2000 MHS graduate. He has been here since June but admits he has been playing golf at the courses in town since he began dating Ashley in 2000.
Johnson will have 15 athletes to work with in his first go-round at Marshalltown. The three at the top are expected to be senior Riley Wirth, junior Connor Johnson and sophomore Michael Schrempf.
"I expect big things from these three and on any given day, any one of these guys can shoot really low," Johnson said. "All three played on varsity last year."
MHS Boys' Golf Schedule
(Home meets at Elmwood unless noted)
Aug. 14, Mason City, Noon (American Legion)
Aug. 15, at Ames, 10 a.m. (Ames Golf & Country Club)
Aug. 17, Fort Dodge, Noon
Aug. 20, at Mark Mann Inv., 10 a.m. (Mason City CC)
Sept. 4, at Ottumwa Invite
Sept. 6, at Newton Invite, 1 p.m.
Sept. 10, at Turk Bowman Invite, 10 a.m. (Ames CC)
Sept. 14, Joe August Invite, 10 a.m.
Sept. 17, at Valley Classic, 10 a.m. (Briarwood)
Sept. 18, at SE Polk Invite, 9 a.m. (Copper Creek)
Sept. 26, CIML Meet, TBD
Oct. 2, Districts, TBD
Filling in two other varsity spots are expected to be seniors Drayton Lents and Alex Jensen. The sixth and final spot is still up for grabs, according to Johnson, but he said several freshmen are battling it out with hopes to make the varsity roster in 2012.
"The expectation for me in my first year is for each kid to get better every day," Johnson said.
Schrempf also will play football this season as he attempts to play two sports this fall. So far, it has not been an issue and Johnson wouldn't want it any other way.
"I am one of the coaches that believes the best athletes need to play as many sports as possible," Johnson said. "I think it's great when that happens."
The Bobcats lost their top golfer from a year ago in Ben Wollam, who shot an 81 at last fall's district meet. He also finished ninth in the two-part conference golf meet.
It is tough for Johnson to know much about the competition his squad will face on the links in 2012, and he doesn't really know much about the CIML teams.
"I have talked to the kids about some of the teams, but that question will be easier to answer going into next season I think," he said.
Seven of the top eight finishers at last fall's Class 4A State Golf Tournament came from the CIML. Valley won the state championship by 17 strokes and welcomes back defending state individual champion Jeff Swegle. Waukee, Dowling Catholic, Ames and Ankeny also bring back their team's best individual golfer from last season. Ottumwa was in the top eight as a team in 2011, as well.
The Bobcats will start the season Tuesday at the American Legion Golf Course in a home dual against CIML foe Mason City. The first ball is expected to be hit off the tee at noon and the teams will play 18 holes. Marshalltown also plays at Ames on Wednesday and then is back at home at 10 a.m. Friday at Elmwood Country Club against Fort Dodge.