Eau Claire Memorial boys golf

Eau Claire Memorial golfers (from left) Will Schlitz, Parker Etzel, Cole Fisher, Liam Sather and Ben Christenson have helped push the Old Abes to the top of the Big Rivers Conference.

It’s a luxury few golf teams have.

When your highest scorer still goes low on the scorecard, the odds are in your favor. And Eau Claire Memorial has made that a habit.

The Old Abes boys have won all but one Big Rivers tournament this spring, with all five of their golfers routinely finishing near the top of the leaderboard. The depth has made first-place finishes the norm for the program.

“We’ve got five guys who can go low on any given day,” sophomore Parker Etzel said. “I’m a younger guy on the team, and it’s really comforting to know that I don’t have to go out and play my best golf all the time. I can make mistakes, and there’s no pressure to step up to the first tee and be my absolute best, because you know your guys have always got your back.”

The Old Abes have used that depth to win tournaments big and small. They’re staking their claim as the top team in the Big Rivers after winning every conference meet of the season besides the first. And outside of league play, they’ve topped large fields — like at Rice Lake’s 17-team invitational last week.

“I can be the low guy one day and the high one the next,” sophomore Ben Christenson said. “The high guy is still low, and that’s incredible.”

Look no further than last week for an example. At the Rice Lake invitational, which featured 86 golfers, Memorial’s players all finished in the top 10. None shot higher than a 78.

“We can all go out there and fire a low score,” freshman Will Schlitz said. “That depth has really helped.”

And the depth goes beyond the varsity roster. Coach Fred Hancock said players at the JV level are constantly pushing the varsity players to improve by showing off their own talent and work ethic, and it’s set the program up for success.

“The depth goes even beyond the fourth and fifth guys, it goes to the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th,” Hancock said. “I think we’ve got some kids in our JV program who could be a No. 1 player for a lot of schools, so the depth is really helping push this group.”

The Old Abes are an experienced bunch with countless hours on the course logged over the duration of their junior careers. That’s helped immensely this spring, Hancock said.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that when it’s not going well, they’ve been able to pick themselves up out of trouble,” he said. “That’s a sign of a confident group. If you’re not confident, when things are going badly they can continue to go badly.”

After losing out on the title at the first Big Rivers meet of the season to Hudson, the Old Abes have rallied to take the rest.

That early-season defeat served as a source of motivation for the bunch.

“That kind of fired everyone up,” senior Liam Sather said. “Since then, it’s been going pretty well.”

The Old Abes had to work around Hancock’s busy schedule early in the sesaon, when he was coaching the Memorial girls team during the alternate fall period.

Program alumnus and former Division III All-American Ryan Isaacson stepped up and took the team under his wing, which helped steady the process.

“Ryan has done an awesome job with these guys,” Hancock said. “These guys really look up to Ryan. He’s a really talented player and has done some amazing things for our program, so I really appreciate what Ryan’s done.”

As the season inches closer toward the postseason — the Big Rivers championship meet is set for May 27 in Eau Claire, and regionals begin June 2 — confidence is high among the group. But they’re remaining laser-focused on each meet ahead.

“We just want to succeed,” junior Cole Fisher said. “I believe we can do very well, but we know we have to take it one thing at a time.”