New eager coach looks to keep Slicers in the hunt
La PORTE — Eric Wozniak didn’t always want to be a high school golf coach.
In fact, he admitted that only a handful of seasons ago, he never envisioned himself at the helm of a golf program. But that’s the situation he finds himself in, and he’s elated being La Porte’s new boys coach.
“It’s definitely not a role I saw myself in, even five years ago,” Wozniak said.
He’s coached wrestling and football, however, those were sports he played growing up.
Wozniak, who’s been an assistant the last two years for this team, inherits the squad from former head coach Bill Hart, who stepped down after last season.
“I learned so much underneath him,” Wozniak said. “I learned a lot about the game, and kind of developed a love for it. And I’m very happy that I am the head coach right now. Because I had a great teacher in coach Hart, and I just kind of want to continue a lot of his ways, and sprinkle in a few ideas of my own.”
Wozniak takes over a young Slicers’ team with only one senior out of 11 golfers on the roster.
Max Holmes and Conrad Porter will be the No. 1 and No. 2 golfers, respectively. Porter is the one senior on the team. After golfing for the varsity last year, he will be relied on as a leader.
“He brings a lot to the team,” Wozniak said. “He speaks with a lot of experience before matches. He gets the kids fired up.”
Wozniak called the sophomore Holmes a stalwart, too.
“He’s our ace right now,” Wozniak said of Holmes, who also saw varsity time in 2017. “He shoots well. He had 41 against Marquette and New Prairie at our home opener. He missed being medalist by a few strokes, but he’s already shooting just as good as he did last year.”
At the same time, Wozniak said he’ll also depend on the freshman and sophomores, the face of the team in the future.
“I’m hoping they stick with it, because they’re valuable,” he said.
Those youthful players, who will provide depth this year, are sophomore Mason Jones, and freshman Graham Siefker, along with sophomore Jack Schable. Wozniak said junior Cas Pulaski’s looking to be a solid No. 3 golfer. At the very least, Wozniak said he’ll be in the No. 3 to No. 5 mix.
Another player who might contribute is Jordan Hull.
The Slicers have already played a few contests.
They won their home opener over Marquette and New Prairie, carding 189 last Wednesday at Beechwood Golf Course. La Porte took 10th in the Marquette Invitational (410) on Saturday at Michigan City Municipal. Last year, the Slicers won the sectional title (341) for the second straight season at Beechwood. They finished 15th in the Lafayette Jeff Regional (359) at Battle Ground Golf Club, missing a team state bid.
In order for La Porte to have success this season, Wozniak recognizes the significance of players knowing their overall games.
“We have to understand exactly where we’re at right now,” Wozniak said. “We have to hit putts that are within five feet, we’ve got to have those. Our shorthand’s got to improve, and that’s something we have to passionately work at every single practice, because those are valuable strokes.”
Lost to graduation were Drew Spartz, the team’s No. 1 golfer the last few years, along with Blake Snyder, Cameron Wells and David Toth.
Wozniak said he wants his team to be described as having a good reputation, one that understands its limitations and its power.
“I want to be defined by our character,” Wozniak said. “I want to be known for good sportsmanship, for having a good attitude about things. I want to be defined as a team who understands its weaknesses and its strengths, and a team who works together to get better to improve our game, and to improve as student-athletes and as citizens as well. That’s real important.”
La PORTE BOYS GOLF SCHEDULE
April 11 — Marquette, New Prairie, (LP won tri)
April 14 — Marquette Invitational, (LP took 10th)
April 21 — South Bend Invitational, noon
April 24 — Lake Central, 4 p.m.
April 26 — Crown Point & Lake Central, 4 p.m.
April 27 — Lowell/Mishawaka Marian & Plymouth, 4 p.m.
April 30 — Plymouth & South Bend Riley, 4:30 p.m.
May 1 — at Merrillville, 4 p.m.
May 3 — La Porte & Valparaiso at Portage, 4:15 p.m.
May 5 — at Plymouth Shootout, 9 a.m.
May 8 — La Porte & Chesterton at Michigan City, 4 p.m.
May 10 — La Porte & Portage at Crown Point, 4:15 p.m.
May 11 — Uebele Invitational at Beechwood, 1 p.m.
May 14 — La Porte & Elkhart Central at Penn, 4 p.m.
May 16 — Michigan City & Merrillville, 4 p.m.
May 17 — La Porte & Chesterton at Valparaiso, 4 p.m.
May 21 — Duneland Conference Meet at Chesterton’s The Brassie, noon
May 26 — at Lafayette Jeff Classic, noon
June 1 — La Porte Sectional at Beechwood Golf Course, TBA