courtesy of Shawana Coxcourtesy of Willow Springs Golf

Second at State

Willow golfers talk their season, stories, success
No whooping or chanting was heard, but the news office was strangely quiet. A team of self-possessed and confident young men described their achievements matter-of-factly. This reserved demeanor likely speaks to their success in their chosen sport. These five young men walked away with a second-place win at the state championships for golf, held at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville on May 13 and 14. 
The team stopped by the news office on May 30 to discuss their historic season.
This is the biggest win Willow Springs golf has ever seen, Coach Cole Johnson said. The best the school has ever done before was sixth place. Not only did this team come within three strokes of winning it all, but the team achieved a near-perfect season. 
“Season-wise, we nearly had a perfect season,” Coach Johnson said. “We won the conference tournament for the second year. We had the conference individual champion, Noah [Leslie]. We were District champs. Brady [Altermatt] was the individual champ there. We nearly had the post-season sweep. It was a good year.”
Golf tournaments combine individual scores into a team score to determine overall success. The Class 2 State Championship takes place over two days. The boys from Willow Springs scored 680 overall, 341 the first day and 339 the next.
Scores are posted live on the MSHSAA website during the tournament, so as they played, they were tracking their competition. A State Championship win seemed like it was in their grasp. The final score was so close – only three strokes away. Initially, the team was crestfallen that they did not win it all. 
“It’s like losing on double overtime at the last second in football,” Johnson explained.
“With golf, every shot matters…It was more heartbreaking, knowing we could have won,” senior Alex Moritz said. After realizing our names were going in the new gym, it feels better now than it did in the moment it happened.”
Moritz is one of two seniors on this team. Noah Leslie also graduated recently. A set of brothers who have been playing since the age of 4, Blayne and Brady Altermatt, and one rising sophomore, Marc Prough, round out the varsity team. 
Moritz plans to continue his golf career at the college level, which will begin at MSU-WP. He said he would recommend golf to any athlete who hopes to play three sports in high school. Compared to other team sports like basketball, it’s more slow-paced. “It’s a very mental game,” Moritz said. He credited the team’s good chemistry with their success on the links.
Noah Leslie is one of the members of the team who made All-State. Leslie placed fifth overall with a tournament score of 165. His plans after graduation are not set in stone, but they will surely include golf. For Leslie, the best part of playing golf at Willow Springs was, “This team - getting to play with all [these] guys. It’s the best team we’ve had in forever, the best in Willow Springs history.”
Brady Altermatt just missed the cut-off for All State, one stroke away from for eighteenth place overall with a championship tournament score of 170. He shared a story from Districts.
“I birdied the last hole to win the district. My tee shot was just left of the fairway, and the second shot was about eight feet out. Two other guys had made the birdie putt. And I just said, ‘I’m gonna make this now.’ And I did.”
Blayne Altermatt said the best thing about his golf season was the coach. “On the last four holes of state, I was playing really bad,” he said. “At the end and Coach Johnson talked to me. The next shot, I threw one tight [within three feet of the hole].” Blayne earned All-State honors, tying for twelfth place. 
Marc Prough also spoke about the pressure that is the joy and challenge of the sport. “Nearly every other sport is reactionary,” Coach Johnson expanded. “The ball is sitting still, reacting to your thoughts.”
“I had been waiting for our chance at the state tournament,” Johnson said. "Before the season, I was anticipating good results. We kinda thought we had a good team. Across any sport at Willow, these five guys probably put more time into our sport,” he said.
Correction: The originally published version of this story incorrectly said Brady Altermatt placed 12th, making All-State. The correct version appears above.
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Howell County News

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