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Sports

Pirates roaring to get going on the links

Ottawa's Ryan Wendt, shown here tagging a fairway shot onto the ninth green at the Eastwood Golf Club during last year's Streator Invitational, is back for his senior campaign this fall.
Ottawa's Ryan Wendt, shown here tagging a fairway shot onto the ninth green at the Eastwood Golf Club during last year's Streator Invitational, is back for his senior campaign this fall.

Keith Budzowski is eager to grab the reigns of the traditionally-solid Ottawa High School golf program this fall, and the first-year varsity head coach will inherit a group of familiar linksmen who possess that "eye of the tiger" vision.

Ottawa's roster of 10 golfers consists of six seniors, three juniors and one sophomore.
"I've coached all these kids already," said Budzowski, a 2002 OHS grad who was at the helm of the frosh/soph team the past eight years, "so I know their demeanors ... so that helps. It's nice to see how much they've grown too since I've had them. All around, it's a great group of kids, and I really look forward to (coaching them).
"After the first couple days (of practice), we've had sort of a wide-range (of scores). Right now, we have kids that are averaging in the low 40s and then we have (averages) all the way up to about the mid-50s. There's a lot of competitiveness, especially from those top four spots.
"I think we could have a real solid team this year once we get rolling."
The top returner from last year for Ottawa is sophomore T.J. McDonnell — a sectional qualifier, an All-NIB 12 West selection and a member of The Times All-Area Honor Roll as a ninth-grader. Also back is "improving" senior Ryan Wendt. A newcomer of note is 12th-grader Gary Duffield, who transferred from Marquette and qualified for Class 1A sectionals in 2015.
"(Those three are) in the low 40s now, and I'm hoping once we get into some meets here they'll start breaking into the 30s. I think once we getting rolling, it's not going to take much to get those kids down in the real competitive scoring position," Budzowski said.
The fourth spot is currently up for grabs, according to Budzowski, with junior Nick Stehl, as well as returning seniors Andrew Evola, Jared Jodts and Parker McLean all right there in the mix with averages hovering in the mid-to-upper 40s.
"I think depth is going to be our key. We have a pretty good top eight," Budzowski said. "I'm hoping we're going to have that depth to where I'm taking out (good) scores."
The remaining members of the squad are returning senior Erik Nederbo, along with juniors Dominic Bianchi and Erik Vandervelde.
Budzowski believes his Pirates are hungry and have their sights set on the postseason — in particular the seniors.
"They have that eye of the tiger," Budzowski said, "and I think, you know, if we can get that edge going, we'll be able to get the team through the (regional). They have the capabilities."

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