CLEVELAND, Oh - Saint Ignatius Varsity Blue Golf is coming off an incredible 2020 season as they finished as OHSAA State Runner-Ups. The Wildcats are coming into this season with four returning student-athletes from that team and are poised at another chance at a State Championship in Columbus. The Golf Cats are off to a great start in 2021, placing first in both the Brunswick Kick-Off Classic and Walsh Jesuit’s home tournament as the season is in full swing.
“Coming out of the summer, all of these guys have been playing well,” says Head Golf Coach PJ Myers ’99. “They are in their rhythm; this isn’t preseason for them; they are all ready to roll for team golf. This team has been together for the last 2-3 years. They are all excellent friends and they expect to hit the ground running.”
Although it was the off-season for the Cats, the team continued to perfect their game heading into the team season. Junior Nick Piesen placed first at the AJGA Junior at Knollwood, shooting an impressive 69-69-68. “That was a great week for me; I think that gave me a lot of confidence heading into this year,” Piesen explains. “My mental game has improved and that’s the biggest part of being a member of the golf team.”
Senior Topher Reed competed in the Junior PGA and US Junior Amateur over the summer, coming into the 2021 season in rhythm. “I played in a bunch of qualifiers at the beginning of summer; I did well and got into the Junior PGA and US Junior Amateur,” Reed explains. “I went there with no expectations, I played well and didn’t put pressure on myself, and the experience was awesome.”
Team chemistry is a significant part of the golf game, which is evident with coach Myers’ Varsity Blue unit. “Everyone feels comfortable with each other,” Myers says. “We are carrying that team over from last year and it’s been great.”
The Golf Cats have appeared in four tournaments thus far into the 2021 regular season, placing first in three and second in the other. Most recently, the Wildcats are coming off a first-place finish at the St. Xavier home tournament, where the team shot 288. Sophomore Bradley Chill was a medalist shooting a tournament’s best 69. Piesen shot 71 in the victory. “We are all playing our games and focusing on winning,” says Piesen. “We know we can go out there and prove to everyone we are the best team.”
“We had two players that came up from JV from last season and they have stepped up big time,” explains Reed on the hot start. “They are putting up consistent scores under 75 and it’s letting us go play our game and it’s beneficial.”
One of those JV players was senior Michael Van Etten. In the early part of the season, Van Etten has been a critical piece for coach Myers’ team, consistently shooting in the low 70s. “This is my first year not playing baseball in the summer; I wanted to work on all parts of my game,” explains Van Etten. “I think the mental game is the strongest skill of my game that makes me a lot better.”
Coach Myers and his coaching had their eye on Van Etten making the jump to be an integral part of Varsity Blue. “Michael Van Etten spent the last three years on our JV team; we knew he had a tremendous amount of potential,” says Myers. “He put that all together with a phenomenal summer and his game in summer translated into the season.”
After getting a taste of the State Tournament last season, a State Championship is on the minds of all the Wildcat golfers in 2021. As a program, the previous State Championship from golf came in the 2002 season, where the Cats achieved back-to-back championships. This season, the Cats are hoping to take the experience of last season and use that for their advantage.
“We learned a lot in the last couple of years competing for a State Championship,” Myers explains. “We are trying to take those lessons and apply them in every tournament. We understand how difficult it is to win a State Championship, so we take it one tournament at a time.”
“Win a state championship,” says Van Etten. “That’s our main goal going into this season and everyone shares that goal.”
Senior Leadership adds another advantage factor for the Wildcats as Reed and Van Etten are the seniors on Varsity Blue. Reed enters this season as a commit to The Ohio State University and notes the relief of having his college squared away in his senior year. “Helps me a lot,” says Reed. “Beginning of last season, I was focused on playing well for college and I struggled a bit, but now not having that pressure is relieving and now I can play my game and not worry about anything else.”
“Topher has been around these players for the last 9-10 years from playing junior golf with them, says Myers. “The relationship didn’t just start at Saint Ignatius; these guys played on PGA junior league teams together, so the relationships are strong and the players feed off the energy of Topher. He is a phenomenal course leader; he is a huge team player and brings the team together.”
Looking ahead for the Wildcats, there is a tournament that sticks out to coach Myers and the Wildcats: the Canterbury Kiely Cup in Beachwood. “We have a great schedule, this is the best schedule we have ever had and the Kiely Cup at Canterbury is where we look at as the preview of State Championship,” explains Myers. Teams come across the state and that’ll be a great barometer to see where we stand.”
The Wildcats have State Championship aspirations on their mind as they continue in the 2021 regular season. Next up for the Wildcats is the Hudson Invitational at the Hudson Country Club on Monday as the Golf Cats look to continue their hot start.