The feel-good resurgence of the Woodland High School golf program in recent years created another successful — and slightly surprising — story last fall, culminating with senior Tyler Jenkins capturing a sectional championship, 16th place at the abbreviated IHSA Class 1A Boys State Tournament and ultimately The Times 2018 Golfer of the Year award.
Jenkins is gone to Pomp and Circumstance, but head coach Jordan Farris has reason to believe the Warriors can create more feel-good moments out on the course this season with a 12-person roster featuring eight returning players, led by lowest returning scorer Christian Miller.
"The numbers are encouraging," said Farris of his 2019 Warriors — three seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen. "We've had pretty strong numbers during my time here, and we've had some success in the past and more recently, so it's nice that the kids see the opportunities that golf can give them to learn a game they can play for the rest of their lives."
Miller had a good season a year ago, but struggled in the El Paso-Gridley Regional to a triple-digit score to bring his season to a sudden halt. Farris believes his senior has done the work on the course to take the next step in 2019.
"Christian's really put the time in," his coach said. "He came to me as a sophomore who was kind of raw, but you have to give him a lot of credit, because he worked his butt off and got a lot of help from Tyler (Jenkins), who is his cousin. When you can go out and play with a guy like Tyler and get some tips, it's never a bad thing.
"Christian has a lot of practice time under his belt. Hopefully this is his year to put some solid scores together and advance out of regionals.
"He's a pretty good lock for the No. 1 spot on varsity. The other spots ... I'll just say there's a lot of opportunity there for the other members of the team."
Seniors Brad Simpson and Cody Dodge both return for the Warriors, as do juniors Trevor Quaintance, Nolan Bressi and Nick Leskanich as well as sophomores Nick Hoekstra and Keegan Boldt. New to the program are sophomore Glen Ruff and freshmen Carter Ruff, Mya Wulzen and Jack Hunter.
"I'm hoping for some pleasant surprises," said Farris. "I haven't really gotten a good look at everybody yet, but over the next week we'll see what we have. Our first match is on (August) 22 at Anderson Fields, so ready or not, it's coming, and by the time the season ends I hope I have some nice surprises."