The Crusaders' first-year program has made terrific strides.
In the last major high school golf tournament at Dalhousie Golf Club, the first-year Saxony Lutheran program was the host team and shot a team score of 453. On that day, none of the Crusaders golfers broke the century mark.
In the SEMO Conference tournament Tuesday at Dalhousie, the Crusaders scored a 419 and had three players at 100 or better.
"We've shown a lot of improvement from our first tournament," Saxony senior Clay Obergoenner said. "Our coach is a great coach, and we've come a long way from our first match, when everyone was shooting 100."
The coach is Carroll Williams, who coached the now-dormant Southeast Missouri State program. He jumped back into action this year when Saxony Lutheran started its program with the opportunity to use Dalhousie as a home course. "You don't turn that down," Williams said.
The Crusaders finished third in their Class 1 district tournament last week and qualified two players -- Obergoenner and sophomore Tyler James -- for next week's state tournament.
"For us to compete in the district and send two kids to state in our first year, I'm very pleased with where we are and what we accomplished," Williams said. "I felt the kids did a good job and responded well. We've cut our scores down, and we're playing better."
Obergoenner, the younger brother of former Central standout and current Southern Illinois golfer Todd Obergoenner, shot a 96 on Tuesday, a five-stroke improvement from when he led the team in the Saxony tourney.
But Obergoenner just took up the game prior to last summer and spent part of this spring devoted to one of his other sports -- track. He also was one of Saxony's top basketball players in the winter and will play that sport next school year at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill.
For now, he's balancing a schedule that includes a state sectional track meet Saturday in Centralia, a practice round Sunday in Springfield before the state golf tournament Monday and Tuesday, and he's hoping to cap off next week with a trip to the state track meet May 18 and 19.
"These kids are what student-athlete is all about," Williams said. "They keep their grades up where they need to be."
Obergoenner admits the balancing act can be difficult, particularly with a sport like golf that is mastered over time.
"I don't get to practice a whole lot," Obergoenner said. "It's hard to balance them both out, and sometimes I get frustrated. You've just got to remember you're not out there everyday working on your game.
"There was one day we had a golf tournament at 11, and then I drove to Perryville for a track meet. That was probably the longest day I've had. But they're both really fun. I enjoy playing golf and sprinting."
Obergoenner will run the 100- and 200-meter sprints on Saturday and also compete for the 800 relay team and in the long jump.
Fellow senior Alex Jauch, who missed a state berth by one stroke, also pulled the track-golf double this spring.
"He just barely missed out," Williams said. "He shot an 8 on the first hole. He played well the rest of the day. I wanted to see him qualify because he's such a good athlete."Jauch shot a 99 for Saxony Lutheran on Tuesday, while James shot a 100. They each shot 111 in the Saxony event on April 19.
The improvement is noticeable for the Crusaders, but Williams still stresses patience.
"Golf demands a lot of things that other sports don't, but coaches in other sports can have a greater impact," said Williams, who notes there are no timeouts, no substitutions and no way for him to watch all his players at once. "A lot of times, kids have to do things for themselves, and it's hard to put a kids in all the situations they'll face. Golf takes time.
"We'll have five of our seven back next year, and we hope to get some new ones next year. It's a slow process. It's going to take us a few years but hopefully by the time the freshmen are seniors, they can expect to contend for the district."