2017 Fall Preview: New Richmond golfers suffer key injury
The hopes of the New Richmond girls golf team repeating as Middle Border Conference champions suffered a severe blow the day before the season began.
The Tigers were informed that sophomore Jessica Hagman, who was the second best returning golfer in the MBC, suffered a major knee injury the weekend before the season began while playing in a basketball tournament. While Hagman’s injury is a devastating setback, it does not change the goals for the Tigers this season.
Long-time New Richmond coach Neal Ziller said he and the girls still believe they can win another MBC championship.
“I still believe this team could, should, win the Middle Border,” Ziller said. “Our expectation is that we should be at the top of the Middle Border.”
Ziller said that expectation carries to the postseason, where the Tigers are hoping they can be a factor in the Division 1 battle to reach the state tournament.
The Tigers return one of the premier golfers in the area in junior Maggie Veenendall. Veenendall was the individual MBC champion in 2016, winning seven of the nine conference matches. She’s not one to rest on past successes. Veenendall played extensively over the summer and she works hard to keep advancing her skills.
Ziller said Veenendall, Hagman, Rebecca Ziller and Molly Hassler all played extensively over the summer. In doing so, they have a jump on the competition at the start of the high school season.
In seniors Ashley Swiggum and Elise Kolbeck, the Tigers have two more players who ranked among the top 15 girls in the MBC last season. Swiggum finished sixth in the 2016 individual standings and Kolbeck ranked 15th. With Hagman’s injury, Swiggum is now looked at as the number two player for the Tigers.
Coach Ziller said Kolbeck, Ziller and Hassler are now being viewed as the three through five varsity players. He said those girls understand the importance of their roles.
“Rebecca, Molly and Elise were talking, saying they’re going to step up,” Coach Ziller said. “Our season will hinge on the fourth and fifth players, but it does every year.”
Coach Ziller said Hassler showed in the first days of the season she’s ready to be a varsity player. She was coming on strong at the end of 2016 and she’s playing with more confidence this year. He said she’s also drastically improved her one weakness, her short game.
The Tigers served notice in the first match of the season that they plan on being a force. The Tigers competed at the Barron Scramble Friday, Aug. 11 and they came away as team champions, topping a 19-team field that included opposition like Eau Claire Memorial and Eau Claire North. The Tigers combined to shot a 62 in the victory. Playing for the Tigers in the tournament were Veenendall, Swiggum, Ziller, Kolbeck and Hassler.
Coach Ziller will be serving double duty in the New Richmond golf program this year. Over the summer, he was named as the new varsity coach for the New Richmond boys golf team. He replaces Jim Saliny, who coached the boys for more than 25 years.