| Ames Tribune
Missing the girls’ 2020 season still isn’t sitting well for Ames’ golf coach R.J. Voss.
Voss has been back on the course with the Little Cyclone boys’ team since Aug. 13 after fall teams were given the go-ahead to compete by the state and the Iowa High School Athletic Association following the COVID-19 pandemic. But he had big plans for the girls’ team that went unfulfilled when the pandemic put a halt to high school sports and all other activities last spring.
“It’s been a long time and I still have a sour taste in my mouth after missing the girls’ season as we were set to have a great season with a bunch of returning letterwinners that really worked hard in the off season,” Voss said. “It took me a while to even get back to the course this summer after not getting to play this spring.”
The Little Cyclone boys fell to Ankeny in their first meet at Veenker Memorial Golf Course in Ames. They shot a 338 compared to the Hawks’ 315 over nine holes.
But Ames has won its next two dual meets, defeating Mason City (323 to 366) at the Highland Park Golf Course in Mason City on Friday then downing Marshalltown (327 to 332) back at Veenker Monday. That has helped Voss settle in and focus on getting the boys’ back to state, where they tied for fifth in Class 4A with Dowling Catholic last Fall.
“We are now 2-1 and the loss was to one of the top teams in the state,” Voss said. “We will start to focus on the short game and we will continue to improve. This team works very hard on their own time and it will start to pay off as we get into the heart of the season.”
On Wednesday Ames placed sixth out of 10 teams at the Dragon Invitational at Jester Parker. The Little Cyclones shot a 332 over 18 holes.
Ames is a young team. The Little Cyclones are replacing five of their six state golfers from last year, including individual medalist Connor Van Weelden.
“We have a big group of underclassmen that are pushing each other to get better and we have some great leadership in Sam Vertanen and Derek Peng,” Voss said. “They are helping out outside of practice and are great role models on and off the golf course.”
Vertanen and Peng are the only returning golfers that competed at state last year.
Vertanen led Ames against Marshalltown with a strong nine-hole round of 74. He also was second on the team against both Ankeny and Mason City with respective rounds of 81 and 80.
On Wednesday he carded a 73 to take medalist runner-up honors behind Johnston’s Jarred Bowser, who shot a 70.
Peng led Ames against both Ankeny and Mason City with respective scores of 80 and 77. He was second on the team against Marshalltown with an 82 and he shot an 87 at the Dragon Invitational.
“Derek Peng has had a solid start to the season and Sam Vertenan is starting to come on after a tough first couple outings,” Voss said. “Both of these players are really hard workers and it migrates to the rest of the team. It’s great as a coach to have guys like this for the younger players to learn and model.”
Jeff Swanson is another senior competitor that has competed for Ames, carding an 84 against Ankeny and a 95 at the Dragon Invite. Juniors Sam Vander Wilt, Max Badding, Ike Alexander and Jack Cannon and sophomore Jay Voss are the top underclassmen on the team.
Vander Wilt shot an 86 at the Dragon Invite, an 88 against Mason City and a 90 versus Marshalltown. Badding turned in a 95 against Ankeny, bounced back with an 83 versus Mason City and scored an 84 versus Marshalltown and 86 at the Dragon Invite.
Alexander delivered a 96 and Cannon carded a 93 versus Ankeny. Voss had his best meet against Mason City with an 85 then shot a 99 versus Marshalltown.
Junior Grant Woodward golfed at Jester Park Wednesday and shot a 96.
“Consistency has been the biggest issue so far,” Voss said. “We need more time on the range and working on our short game we should start to clean up some of the three-putts and lack of getting the ball up and down around the green.”
With golf being one of the easiest sports to social distance and follow other COVID health guidelines Voss is looking forward to a long season to get his inexperienced golfers as many swings in as possible.
“Golf is a great sport,” Voss said. “My hope is if anything positive comes from COVID it is that the number of young golfers increases statewide.
Ames next plays Tuesday, Sept. 1 against Fort Dodge at the Fort Dodge Country Club.