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Warden golf coach discusses young team, season aspirations

Mar. 13—WARDEN — Warden Boys Golf head coach Tim Carlberg outlined what the team is expecting as the spring golf season begins and what the team's focuses are this year.

"Our turnout numbers have been really good," Carlberg said. "The size of our team is doubled this year, so I've got quite a few kids turning out. Some of our core players are very young, and they have a little bit of experience playing golf, so we're building our program, and the kids that have a little bit of experience under their belt are competitive with the kids from other schools."

Carlberg said there are no returning seniors, but there are a few players with experience from last season.

"We were in a kind of a rebuilding phase last year. Our best player happened to be an eighth grader; he made it to state," Carlberg said. "But we were developing kids that were very new to golf. We had two kids advanced all the way to the state. One was the eighth grader, and then the other one was the senior we had last year, but he had only golfed for two years, so he showed quite a bit of improvement and played his best right at the end of last season. And then this year we've got some players that are out for their second year who have really improved. So, we're looking to just kind of build from last year into a more competitive overall team."

The eighth grader who made it to state last year, now a ninth grader, is Jaden Hernandez, Carlberg said.

"He's going to be our top player again this year," he said. "And we've got a couple of other kids who are still developing, but I think they're gonna improve quite a bit."

COVID-19 is part of the reason the team is still in a rebuilding phase, Carlberg said.

"Coming out of COVID, we had like three players on our team that year," he said. "This year, we're up to 19 or 20, so it's taken a few years to get there. We try to work with some of our middle school kids that want to come out. They can play as eighth graders. So if we get seventh graders out, we just have them practice with us, trying to develop a feeder system. But a lot of the kids who played last year who enjoyed it, they've helped recruit some of their friends, so we've got a great group of kids this year. They all seem to be really enjoying it and they're kind of excited to get going."

Carlberg talked about his training emphasis this season.

"For everybody, we're always working on the rules of golf in general, course etiquette, how to take care of our course," he said. "But with our newcomers, it's a lot of just the basics of how to grip a golf club, how to put, chip, teaching them to do it correctly, so they're not building bad habits that are hard to reverse later. So a lot of short game work; I'd say probably 70% of the time we're working on short game because that's where most of our players lose strokes when they're playing in matches."

The practices are also an opportunity to score and rank the players.

"One of the things we do during practices is I give them opportunities to compete against one another to see who's going to spot into those varsity spots for the upcoming matches...So they go out, and they play matches against one another like that, but we also do a lot of short game work, where they're just mainly chipping and putting and working on approach shots," Carlberg said. "But we're using those with scoring as well to kind of figure out where players are ranked on our team for those matches

Carlberg said the competitiveness in Warden's league varies by school.

"We have Cle Elum-Roslyn, which has a couple of really top-notch players who place in the top 10 every year at state. They're seniors this year," Carlberg said. "And then Tri-Cities Prep has another couple of good golfers who usually wind up at state. But the rest of our league, it just kind of varies by year. I think we'll be competitive with most of the teams in our league."

The players' attitudes have been good, Carlberg said.

"We've got a large team, so try my best to get around to work with each one of them," he said. "They come out every day. Practice attendance has been really good, and they all seem to really be enjoying it, so I should have a good group of kids to work with."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com.