Boys golf: Lourdes has eyes set on state meet berth
Luke Alexander and John Paul Becker learned a year ago how important hard work, persistence and poise can pay off.
And if Rochester Lourdes' top golfers are to end this season in the same place the Eagles finished last season — the Class AA state meet — they'll have to embrace those values again and ensure that their teammates do, too.
"It's always been something I've struggled with, staying poised," Alexander said, "but I've learned that you have to look at the positives in every shot.
"The biggest thing with golf, that I've learned through the past three years is you have to stay positive. You can't have negative thoughts in your head."
Alexander and Becker are the lone players back from last season's Lourdes team that won a Section 1AA championship and earned the program's 21st trip to a state tournament. That the Eagles placed seventh at state wasn't as important to Alexander as the experience of playing at state with teammates by his side.
Alexander, now a sophomore, has qualified for the state meet twice. He went as an individual two years ago, and was Lourdes' top scorer last year, finishing 50th at state. If he is to qualify, he would prefer his teammates come with him again this season.
"You learn a lot at state each time you're there," Alexander said. "You have different goals. The first year it was just getting there, then it was trying to succeed and now it's trying to contend, get up there and try to win."
Alexander will take on somewhat of a different role this season. In his fourth varsity season, he will be a leader, someone who can describe to his teammates what it takes to stay mentally tough on the state's biggest stage.
Lourdes lost three senior captains to graduation — Alexander's brother Peter, Josh Fritzjunker and Jack Thayer. Another varsity regular last season, Peter Thayer, moved with his family to the Chicago area after last school year.
That leaves Becker and Luke Alexander as the grizzled veterans, with a combined eight seasons of varsity experience.
"Luke is very smart on the course," Lourdes coach Chris Miller said. "He's a somewhat rare kid in that, if something happens in his shot that he doesn't like, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it."
Becker will also serve as a team leader, though he was unable to participate in state last season because of a previously scheduled family event. The senior said he is motivated to get back to state this season, and to be able to play there.
"He's a kid who is an amazing athlete, has had a great swimming career," Miller said. "He's come a long way as a golfer, too. He really enjoys the game and is always a positive influence.
"He takes things in stride if they don't always go right and it really rubs off on his teammates. And you can tell he's competitive because he's such a good practice player and knows what he needs to work on."
Becker is a standout multi-sport athlete at Lourdes. He is a multiple-time state meet qualifier in swimming for the John Marshall/Lourdes program; he placed fourth in the 200 IM two months ago at the Class AA state meet.
"We went to state last year and our hearts are all kind of set on that this year," Becker said. "We all hope to improve and get better. We think Luke can lead us there and we can do well again."
Many of Lourdes' newcomers aren't new to high school golf. Seniors Stephen Benner, Patrick Dearani and Charlie Hanzel, junior Oliver Dilger and sophomore Kyle Hickey are among a group of players expected to challenge for varsity spots.
"Luke and I will help as much as we can, but all our guys are leaders in their own way," Becker said. "I'm excited to see what's ahead."