Boys Golf Looks To State Using Past Advice

Former players make lasting impact

Harrison+Oxford%2723+tees+of+in+a+Match+against+Wayzata+at+Burl+Oaks

Karsten Farris

Harrison Oxford’23 tees of in a Match against Wayzata at Burl Oaks

Maggie Seidel, Managing Editor

It was not long ago since Derek Hitchner ’16 teed off to win the Class AA State Championship in 2016. Now concluding his sophomore year at Pepperdine University, the echoes of his swing can be heard throughout the Boys’ Golf team today, as they embark on maintaining Hitchner’s legacy of elite golf and honing their individual golf games. 

Due to COVID-19, along with all other Spring sports in 2020, the golf season was cancelled. So, for many, this year feels like a redemption of missed opportunities. Optimistically, Jason Gelb ’22 shares, “I’ve actually gotten better this year… I have a lot more time since I can’t do anything else, so I just go out and play, almost everyday. The rest of the team seems the same way.” Luckily, Kyle Kearney ’21 adds, “Golf is a pretty socially distanced sport,” which allowed the team members to practice more consistently during the off-season. 

This season, although Hitchner is no longer on the roster, Harrison Oxford ’23 remarks, “It raises the standard for how you have to play… We have to perform well because people expect us to because [Hitchner] was there.” 

Wesley Bartels ’22 adds, “He has mentored a couple of us… which is great…I definitely see that he’s made a large impact at Blake, especially [on] the Golf team.” This is especially true for Ian Friedrichs ’25 who has been inducted into a team with a successful past. Friedrichs, however, is prepared to follow in the large footsteps of Hitchner. Gelb shares, “We’ve got Ian who’s gonna be like Derek in my opinion when he grows…I played with him yesterday, and I’ve never seen more consistent short game in my life.” 

Friedrichs, who has been playing competitive golf for the past three to four years and traveling around the nation for tournaments, says that, despite being the youngest on the team as an eighth grader, “[The team] treats me just like I’m a high schooler which has been really nice.” He is no stranger to extremely disciplined work and dedication to his craft, practicing for five to six hours a day in the summer. He says, “That’s just what it takes to be at the next level.” 

This year, the team has dreams of qualifying for the State Tournament. These goals have been a catalyst for motivation and positivity for the team. Bartels shares, “I think we [definitely] got a good shot [at performing well in State] next year, lots of young talent.” 

During the summer and in preparation for next season, golf will remain a priority for many team members. Oxford, for example, shares, “I’m caddying this summer so maybe I’ll get some pointers from other older guys.”

Mentorship is certainly a core aspect of the success and motivation of the Golf team. Likewise, Friedrichs will have the opportunity to play golf with Hitchner over the summer, as he was also able to do last summer. He says “I played with [Hitchner] a lot last year, and it’s just been nice to… ask him a lot of questions about [collegiate golf].” 

The future for the team is untold, but their unique camaraderie — that is shared between bygone and current team members — all points towards the success of past seasons and a storied future. Their team bond sounds beyond each individual year and player. Oxford affirms, “There’s a [greater] sense of playing for your team now… You have to perform well for the team to perform well.”