SPRING CREEK – Despite winter conditions in what is supposed to be the coming of spring, the time has come to play some golf.
When the Spring Creek Spartans hit the links for the first time in league play on Monday in Dayton, they will have a new label on the backs – state champions.
Spring Creek’s second-consecutive regional title was capped by a Division 3A North state championship in front of the home crowd last season, the trip to haul home the state trophy a short one – playing on Spring Creek Golf Course.
With a two-day total of 815, the Spartans laid a 54-stroke advantage down on second-place Boulder City.
The Spartans not only won the team championship, Daniel Mahlke added the final piece of hardware his résumé had been lacking – an individual state title.
The two-time league MVP (2015, 2017) regained his Division 3A North supremacy and made it three-consecutive years with a 1st-Team All-League season – besting all comers from the North and the South in the grand-daddy tourney.
Mahlke’s state-winning tournament was a mirror image in rounds one and two, carding consecutive 75s and taking first by four strokes with a silky-smooth birdie putt on the 18th green in front of the clubhouse.
Typically, state titles are hard to defend due to the fact that most teams do not achieve the dominance until members of a team are seniors – regardless of sport.
The Spartans should have a great outlook for the 2018 season as well, graduating just one member from last year’s state roster – Trevor Stannard.
Stannard was the 2016 Division 3A North MVP, tacking on another 1st-Team All-League selection during his senior season.
He finished tied for 11th in the state tournament with a two-day mark of 169, coming on scores of 78 on the first day and 91 in round two.
Spring Creek welcomes another 1st-Team All-League selection back for his senior season, Mason Adams.
Adams capped off his junior year with a fourth-place finish in the state tourney, carding rounds of 78 for a two-day mark of 156 – just six strokes off the pace of Mahlke’s state-title run.
Trey Sharp is back for his junior season after notching a 2nd-Team All-League selection as a sophomore.
Like Stannard, Sharp split 11th place in the state tournament three ways – carding a 169 in two rounds – shooting consistently with scores of 84 and 85.
Senior Blair Ingram finished in 14th place at state as a junior with a two-day mark of 171 on the heels of an 83 and an 88 – the score lowered with an impressive mark on the par-5, 11th hole in round two – double-eagle, albatross.
The Spartans’ other member from the state-championship team, sophomore Dyllan Fuchs, returns for his junior season.
Transitioning from the wrestling mat after consecutive state titles, he will look to take his golf game to another level this season – the goal for all members of the team according to coach Jeff Van Orman.
“We have everybody back but Trevor, so we have a common core that we’re pretty used to,” said Van Orman. “We have a good group of kids who are capable of improving on what they did last year.”
Due to the weather, Spring Creek has been unable to practice on its home course and is still in preseason mode with the regular season right around the corner.
“We are behind the 8-ball again. We can’t practice outside and that’s big. I’d like to get the kids used to playing against the conditions; the cold, reading the wind and having different lies,” Van Orman said. “We are trying to get ourselves into a position to create something similar.”
A rule change will take place for the boys golf season this year, taking four of six scores for a team rather than five – now the same as the girls.
The annual Icebreaker Tournament – held between Spring Creek, Elko and Lowry – took place on Wednesday in Winnemucca, the Spartans finding themselves in a similar position.
Spring Creek won the event with a score of 341 – narrowly edging the Buckaroos by seven strokes – Elko taking third with a team card of 378.
While practice conditions have been tough, Mahlke was already in midseason and state-championship form – leading all players with a low-score round of 71.
Adams tied for second place with a round of 85, and Sharp split fifth and sixth with a round of 88.
Ingram carded the Spartans’ fourth and final qualifying score with a 97, Fuchs finishing below the century mark with a 99.
Senior Brennan Moon, who competed in varsity tournaments for Spring Creek during the beginning of his junior season, rounded out the top-six for the Spartans with a round of 103.
Garrett Brorby and Max Grusing rounded out Spring Creek’s roster with rounds of 108 and 119, respectively.
The Division 3A North season will begin on one of the most difficult courses, teeing off at 11 a.m. Monday in Dayton.
“There’s every kind of hazard you can think of – water, sand, trees. If you don’t think shots through and don’t do things right, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble,” Van Orman said. “It will be good to be outside and play in a competitive tournament again. The kids are excited. I think we are going to have a good league this year, which will push us to be better every week.”
Following the test on Dayton’s treacherous course, the Spartans and the rest of the 3A North will play in the second tournament of the season on consecutive days, tee times set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Fernley.