Focus for the Mulvane boys' golf team is a little tough to come by in practice. It is hard to blame the guys with the show going on around them.
Gage Cain does not mind performing for them, but he is saving his biggest show for the 4A state tournament.
“Our kids watch Gage, and they're just in awe,” said Mulvane coach Dave Fennewald.
Everything Cain does on the greens is smooth. His swing has no holes, and his approach to the game has been crafted through years of dedication.
“You have your gym rats in basketball. He's a course rat at Hidden Lakes,” Fennewald said. “He just has so much focus for 18 holes. He's a very mentally tough kid on the golf course.”
After this season, Cain will continue on to play at Hutchinson Community College. His resume is outstanding, but he would admit there is room for improvement.
His freshman season, Cain missed the cut for state by one stroke. He corrected that as a sophomore, shooting an 83 at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, tying for 17th place and medaling.
But Cain's momentum sputtered as a junior. He made state, heading to Kansas City to play at Dub's Dread, but he left some shots on the course. Cain settled for an 85, leaving him off the medal stand.
Just making it in the field for the state event at Cherry Oaks in Cheney this year will not be enough satisfaction.
“He wants to be in the top three or five this year, and make some noise with that,” Fennewald said.
The rest of the Wildcats want to make noise, too, and use Cain as a measuring stick. Fennewald said A.J. Holsapple is striving to beat Cain at least once this year. Jordan Blaine wants to push Cain in practice, then perform well enough himself to play in Cain's group on the links.
Both players have success on their own, though. Holsapple will be tasked with dropping consistently low scores to compliment Cain as the No. 2. Blaine's work ethic rivals Cain's, and he is adamant that he wants to improve. After starting the year on junior varsity this past season, Blaine forced his way onto the top squad with budding performances.
Mitchell Parsons can tack on another positive score for Mulvane, if his competitiveness translates into quality shots.
The Wildcats are green on the greens, still learning the angles. Fennewald advises them to play every hole like a double bogey – instead of worrying about how to get to the green in two shots, make it three or four and be satisfied with playing a couple shots over. Once that builds confidence, try for more bogeys and pars.
“You have to get on the range and hit buckets of balls,” Fennewald said. “If they do that and are dedicated to that aspect of it, you'll start seeing some improvement on the course.”
Mulvane starts its season April 1 at the Andover Invitational. The Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division III-IV meet is May 7 at Quail Ridge in Winfield. Regionals are the following Monday.
“I just want to see steady improvement from each of these kids all year round,” Fennewald said.