What do the Jackson Indians golf team and a pure swing have in common?
The Indians take a headful of steam into the Class 4 state meet Monday and Tuesday at the Rivercutt Golf Course in Springfield, Mo.
After gaining a state berth by finishing second to Poplar Bluff in the District 1 tournament at Bent Creek, Jackson claimed the SEMO Conference tournament title Tuesday at Dalhousie Golf Club. Poplar Bluff was among the 10 teams finishing behind the Indians, who won by eight strokes.
"That was a big confidence builder for everybody," senior Matt Litzelfelner said. "I guess it gave our team a little more hope that we can beat Poplar Bluff, too."
Senior Chad Reiminger played a major role in Jackson's 310 team total, finishing as medalist with a 1-under-par 71 on the challenging layout.
"That might have been the best score we've ever had at Jackson," Jackson coach Ron Cook said.
Even more remarkable was that Reiminger was getting his first look at Dalhousie, which opened last summer.
In winning the SEMO Conference title, the Indians finished ahead of the two schools responsible for their three dual losses. As part of a 14-3 dual record, Jackson lost twice to Central and once to Poplar Bluff.
The Indians will make their second straight state appearance and will find a difficult course awaiting. Rivercutt features narrow fairways, uneven terrain for awkward stances, numerous sand traps and is lined with out-of-bounds and lateral hazards off the tee.
The Indians have proven competitive all season in large tournaments, finishing first at the Caruthersville Invitational, second in the Notre Dame Invitational and in a tournament hosted by Northwest, and third at the Poplar Bluff Invitational.
Litzelfelner and juniors Eric Fraley and Blake McDowell return from last year's 10th-place team -- Jackson's best state showing.
"I feel good about this bunch," Cook said. "I think they're focused."
Like Reiminger, Litzelfelner has the ability to go low. He matched his season-best 74 to lead the way in the district and was the medalist of the Notre Dame Invitational. He's accepted a golf scholarship to Southeast Missouri State University.
"This year we didn't know how good we were going to be, and we lost two really key guys -- Kyle Perry and Peyton Sims," Litzelfelner said. "But Eric Fraley, Chad, and Blake McDowell really stepped up big this year. This year us four have been pretty consistent with what we shoot. We can pretty much depend on each other to shoot what we need to."
At the district tournament the Indians shot a season-best 302, and their top four players all shot in the 70s. The foursome will be joined at the state tournament by No. 5 player freshman Gabe Sauer, who has a season-best 18-hole score of 78.
Juniors Fraley and McDowell have shot a season-best 75 and 76, respectively.
The group is indicative of the precocious nature of young golfers statewide.
Cook has seen the number of low scores increase dramatically since he took over Jackson's first golf team in the late 1980s.
"It's improved a whole lot over the years," Cook said. "You have to give a lot of credit to the parents and the golf courses. They provide a lot of programs. It all helps out the young golfers."
Central golfers Todd Obergoenner and Blake Driskell, who will be making the trip to state compeittion as individuals, are among the wave of young talented golfers. Obergoenner, a junior, tied for 20th in the state as a sophomore, and Driskell is just a freshman. Obergoenner shot a 2-under-par 70 to qualify at Bent Creek, while Driskell qualified with a 74.
"It all starts away from the season and how much time they put into it," Cook said. "Like any other sport, if you put the time in, you reap the benefits."
Litzelfelner, who shot a 3-under 32 on the front nine in competition at Kimbeland this year, said he started around age 4, while Reiminger started around age 7.
"Me and Chad use to play all the time when we were younger, playing little events at Kimbeland and at Bent Creek," Litzelfelner said. "We were pretty much competing against each other for a while."
At the state tournament, they'll be facing a bunch of other early starters.
Chaminade and Rockhurst are among the favorites in the team competition. Chaminade has three sophomores, while Rockhurst has two among its top five players.
335-6611, extension 124