The Palmyra boys golf team is starting anew this season after reaching the pinnacle on the links last year with a state runner-up finish.
The Palmyra boys golf team reached the pinnacle on the links last season with its second-place trophy in the Class 2 state championships.
The Panthers actually tied Hermann with the lowest two-day score, but lost out on the state title due to the tiebreaker.
So how does this year's Panther team follow up the best finish in program history?
“We just have to keep working hard,” third-year coach Marty Smyser said. “We have to replace four great seniors, but I think this team could still have success.”
The lone returning varsity player is Laithan Sublette, who placed fifth at state last season.
Noah Wilson and Lane Hammond joined Sublette among the top 10 individuals in Class 2 a year ago, but both have since graduated.
“Laithan is a great golfer who has put in and continues to put in a ton of work to be better every day,” Smyser said of his top golfer.
Senior Ragar Plunkett, junior Ragar McKinney and sophomores Mason Burch and Brock Bollin are expected to round out the Panthers varsity roster this season.
McKinney nearly made the cut for varsity last season and is expected to be the Panthers No. 2 golfer this season.
“I expect great things out of Ragar this season,” the Panthers coach stated. “He has improved dramatically every year because of his work ethic.”
Burch and Bollin both competed at the junior varsity level last season and Smyser mentioned they “have put in a ton of work throughout last year and this season and both should be very competitive.”
Plunkett is new to the program. Smyser mentioned the senior's athletic ability and competitive nature should translate to success on the links.
“He is new to the sport, but I fully expect him to be competitive like he is in every other avenue I have seen him,” the Panthers coach said.
With inexperience at the varsity level, Smyser noted a strong player like Sublette has been a good teaching tool for the rest of the team.
“He is just a great young man and he has a good relationship with a lot of the guys,” the coach said. “One of the big ways he influences our other golfers is just his work ethic and the approach to the game itself. He’s constantly working, even before school, and the guys see that work and the results he has gotten from it.”
With replacing four golfers from last season, the Panthers are not expected to put up the same low numbers this year.
But Smyser is hoping his team can still contend by season's end.
“There will be a learning curve with this team,” he admitted. “But we just have to work to be better every day. If we can do that in every practice, match and tournament, I believe we have a chance to be a very competitive team when conference and district time rolls around.”
Following last season’s success, the program saw a spike in numbers this year. A total of 17 golfers are out for the team this year — the most Smyser has coached.
The Panthers coach mentioned the larger number creates a bit of a problem, but in the big picture it’s a positive.
“It’s definitely harder from a standpoint of being able to see all the guys play and evaluate them,” Smyser said. "However, this is a better problem to have than only having a handful of golfers. For the future it means we should be able to continue to put a good team product on the course for the foreseeable future.”
Of the 17 members on the roster, 12 have previous experience on the links.
The Panthers open the season on March 20 at Centralia.