When asked to characterize the 2018 Ottawa Pirate linksters, the late 1970s movie "Grease" came to mind for head coach Keith Budzowski.
"It's a big group of buddies," Budzowski said. "I think these kids are just looking for camaraderie, having a good time and going out there and just playing good, competitive golf."
Budzowski's roster has eight golfers: two seniors, three juniors — including standout T.J. McDonnell, the lone returning varsity regular — two sophomores and a freshman.
"It is weird," said Budzowski in reference to that aforementioned low total of varsity competitors. "You know, we lost six key players from last year to graduation. I've got T.J. coming back, and then Drake Stoudt's an incoming freshman. I think we're pretty set with our one and two; it's just what am I going to have to work with to fill in those next two scores consistently?
"I've been keeping tabs on the kids, and the growth over the summer has been good, so I'm real excited to get to the season and see what happens."
Leading the Pirates will be McDonnell, a third-year veteran who was Ottawa's No. 1 golfer, a sectional qualifier — barely missing the cut for the state meet — and a member of The Times All-Area Honor Roll as a 10th-grader.
"Last year, you know, I think it got (T.J.) down a little bit that he missed going to state by one stroke," Budzowski said, "but I told him, 'You've still got two years. Work this summer and maybe see if you can be more competitive down at state next year.' So I'm hoping he's ready to take (his game) to that next level and be a really good golfer to where maybe some colleges will look at him."
Expectations are also high for the touted ninth-grader, Stoudt.
"I was hearing the buzz (about Drake)," Budzowski said, "and then when I saw him actually in action at the Pine Hills Junior Golf Tournament, that all sort of came to fruition, and I was like, it's all true. He seems to have the demeanor that a good golfer has. He's got that competitive edge, also ... so he's already sort of self-analyzing his game. So mentality-wise, I think he's definitely at the varsity level."
The rest of the roster is returning seniors Dominic Bianchi and "workhorse" Erik Vandervelde, juniors Joe Connell and Kadon Harth — the top two golfers on the JV last year — along with sophomores Nick Angus and Caden Ericzon.
Budzowski, in his second year at the helm of the OHS program, believes the Pirates can have a successful campaign out on the links this fall.
"I think they have the capabilities to do very well this year," Budzowski said. "We are going to be a young team, so that's going to be tough, but I think through the camaraderie ... I'm really looking for them just to sort of, you know, buddy up and really have that sort of mindset that, this is what we need to do, let's do it together and run with it.
"Sort of have that expectation that it's not going to be tough, we can group all together (and succeed), and we can have a good time doing it."
Date Opponent/Event Time
8/9 at Sandwich Invite 1 p.m.
8/20 at Streator Invite 1:30 p.m.
8/21 at Pontiac 4 p.m.
8/23 at Geneseo 4 p.m.
8/30 ROCHELLE 4 p.m.
9/6 LA SALLE-PERU 4 p.m.
9/7 SYCAMORE 4 p.m.
9/8 at Metamora Invite 8:30 a.m.
9/10 OTTAWA INVITE 1 p.m.
9/11 at Sterling 4 p.m.
9/12 SANDWICH 4 p.m.
9/17 at Minooka Invite 1 p.m.
9/19 at Streator with L-P 4 p.m.
9/20 at Mendota 4 p.m.
9/22 at Mendota Ryder Cup 8:30 a.m.
9/26 at NIB 12 Meet 8 a.m.
9/29 at L-P Cavalier Invite 8:30 a.m.