Steamboat Springs Jason Deigert appeared ready for the transition from a full Junior Golf summer schedule to the fall high school season sitting in his Haymaker office Thursday morning.
"It's a nice change," the Steamboat Springs boys head golf coach said. "The main difference is that the skill level is a lot higher. It becomes more of a mental challenge for a lot of these players because they have a lot of the techniques down."
Instead of teaching youngsters proper course etiquette and how to fix ball marks, Deigert, along with first-year assistant Ryan Barclay, hope to use their playing experience and knowledge to improve the overall game of the 20 boys that will make up the final Sailors' roster for the upcoming 2002 season.
"It's unique for a high school program to have two golf pros coaching them," Deigert said. "We bring a wealth of knowledge as far as instructing. It gives more of a college sense because we're players, and we understand the pressures they go through."
No one may feel more pressure than incoming senior Jeff Franks. The Sailors' lone representative at the state meet last year, Franks is determined to make a return trip and better his third place finish of a year ago. But compared to a hefty summer schedule in which he competed against some of the country's top junior talent, he is more confident than nervous for the high school season.
"There's not as much pressure in high school," he said between practice swings at the Catamount driving range on Thursday. "The competition is easier."
The confidence Franks carries is justified. He and teammate Cody Sherrill are among the best in the Western Slope Conference, Deigert said. They will be expected to fill leadership roles and pass the knowledge they've gained in varsity golf onto their younger teammates.
"Everyone else has to step up," said Sherrill, who is shooting for a state tournament berth. "It will take a while to adjust just like it took Jeff and I a while to learn."
With the top two spots all but locked up heading into the season, Deigert said any of eight players could seize the final three varsity traveling spots, making for great competition and a tournament-like atmosphere at practice.
"We have a handful of guys in the 80-85 range," Deigert said. "They are the ones I'd like to see break into the high-70s. With a little more coaching I think they can."
And if Steamboat hopes to repeat as Western Slope Conference champions, several of those golfers will have to do just as Deigert suggests.
Michael Risinger is one of those players.
Originally from Colorado Springs, Risinger moved to Steamboat this past year and will look to fill some vacant holes with experience he gained as part of Palmer High School's golf team.
Expectations at this point in the season are nonexistent, however. He is just happy to be swinging his clubs.
"I'm playing because I like golf," he said with a shrug.
Risinger acknowledges the talent on the Front Range is higher than in the western portion of the state, but the practice facilities in Steamboat are among the best in the state.
Blessed with support from area courses, the Sailors have the luxury of using Haymaker, Sheraton and Catamount for practice.
"We're so fortunate," Deigert said. "It's like a college program in that we can practice on three different courses."
Steamboat's golf season is the first varsity sport to begin competition with a Monday tournament at Bookcliff County Club in Grand Junction. Tuesday, the team will be at Tiara Rado, also in Grand Junction.
Though it's important to focus on each tournament individually, it's hard not to glance down the schedule and see HOME next to the Western Regionals slot. Haymaker will host the tournament that determines the representatives for the state meet.
Last year, the Steamboat team finished third, one spot short of state. This year, the team may not be as strong at first glance, but they will have Haymaker on their side.
"The top 15 players have been at Haymaker every day playing," Deigert said.
"Most have played in tournaments all summer long and will be ready for the season. I think they'll be very competitive. They are ready to get going."