It won’t be easy for Ankeny Centennial boys’ golf coach Rick Fee to replace one of the state’s top players.
Jack Winkel graduated last spring after a stellar career with the Jaguars. He tied for fourth place in last year’s Class 4A state meet after helping Centennial to the state meet in each of the previous two seasons.
Winkel was named the Iowa PGA Junior Tour Player of the Year in 2021. Both he and Ethan King, another senior on last year’s squad, are now playing for Grand View–which is coached by Winkel’s father, Chris.
Fortunately for Fee, the Centennial roster boasts some experienced players. Two varsity regulars are back from last year’s team that won the CIML Iowa Conference dual-meet title with a perfect 6-0 record.
The Jaguars are now members of the nine-team CIML Conference, which consists of the Des Moines suburban schools.
“There will be no days off,” said Fee. “Every event will place us against the top teams in the metro. There are no easy events. Playing against better competition prepares you better for the postseason, but it also puts more stress on the players throughout the season.”
Seniors Lawson Hachmeister and Ben Meier are back for the Jaguars. Senior Danny Paulson is among the team’s other returnees.
Hachmeister placed second on the team with a 39.4 average for nine holes. He was a two-time medalist.
Hachmeister carded a 71 to lead Centennial to a dual-meet win over Ames at Briarwood Golf Club. He then shot a 35 to earn medalist honors again in another victory over Ankeny at Otter Creek.
Hachmeister, who fired a 34 to earn runner-up honors in a win over Mason City at Highland Park Golf Course, could take over the No. 1 spot following Winkel’s departure.
“I will be leaning on Lawson and Ben a tremendous amount because they have the most varsity experience,” Fee said.
Meier and Paulson both posted an average score of 40.7 a year ago. Meier carded a 35 to earn co-medalist honors in a dual meet against Marshalltown, leading the Jaguars to a two-stroke victory over the team that later won the Iowa Conference meet.
Meier shot a 76 to place ninth in the Ankeny Invitational at Otter Creek, where he helped Centennial to a runner-up finish. He later fired a 78 to finish 13th in the conference meet, which was also held at Otter Creek.
Paulson carded a 79 to place 18th in the Turk Bowman Invitational at Veenker Golf Course. He helped the Jaguars to a third-place finish.
Paulson and Cal Johnson, another senior, led the team with a 266 total over four practice rounds (63 holes) in the last week.
“Players who are new and contributing to the top six are Danny, Gable Strother, Zach Hoffman and Cal–who missed all last season with a torn ACL,” Fee said. “All the players in my top six besides Hoffman are seniors so they have been around the program and played a good amount of events in their own right.”
Centennial shot a 314 and placed fourth in last year’s district meet at Veenker, finishing just two strokes out of the third and final qualifying spot. The Jaguars posted scores of 305 and 298 in their first two practice rounds at Briarwood.
“If we can shoot those numbers on a normal basis, we can compete in any event,” Fee said. “I’ve always told the boys if we can go sub-300 we put ourselves in contention.”
The Jaguars will host the Jesse Peck Invitational on Monday at Briarwood. They will then compete in a CIML Conference triangular meet against Dowling Catholic and Waukee Northwest on Wednesday at The Legacy Golf Club.
“We are looking forward to a great year, and I’m excited to see how we match up with competition week in and week out,” Fee said. “I’ve always said we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This season will be the truest example of that with our new schedules.”