WARSAW – So, what’s new with the Warsaw boys golf program? A Ryder truck and a set of name tags, to start, follow in the Tigers this spring as the team gears up for a new frontier in 2019.
The Ryder truck might be a bit extreme, but the Tigers are moving into a new home this year after years of residence at Stonehenge. With the closing of the fabled course on the east side of town, Warsaw didn’t have to look very far to find a new home.
Literally in the shadows of the high school, Rozella Ford is the new home for the team just down Rozella Road on the southwest side of the high school campus. Rozella, a long-standing golf institution in the city, is no stranger to hosting teams as Triton has called the course home. Rozella has also hosted several area high school golf tournaments, including the Northern Lakes Conference Championships, the Three Rivers Conference Championships and also the Warsaw Golf Sectional in recent vintage.
“We really appreciate all of the support Jeff Johnson has given Warsaw golf, all the way back to when he was a player at Warsaw,” Haddad said of the Rozella course owner. “We were really in a tight spot. Stonehenge was a tournament course unlike any other around here, not just a solid public course. When other teams showed up, those back tees at Stonehenge were pretty intimidating. It doesn’t feel as intimidating at Rozella, but this is a great course that we hope to figure out quickly.”
Haddad, in his third year as head coach for Warsaw, isn’t too worried about the move. While Stonehenge gave his team a tremendous advantage in preparation for some of the tougher courses across the state, it also served as home when the sectionals and regionals were there. With the tourney sectional shifting to Rozella the last half decade, this current group of Warsaw players won’t know any different.
“All of the danger at Rozella tends to be to the left,” Haddad said of the scouting report of his team’s new home. “The out-of-bounds is mostly all left, it’s just understanding where the hazards are. One thing about Rozella in being an older course, is that the greens are older and tilted. With more traffic on them, they will be faster, especially later in May when the tournament comes. It’s being above the hole versus below the hole on the greens when putting. The strategy in knowing where to be on the greens is hopefully one advantage we will have.”
The name tags might be more of the requirement for the Tigers. Warsaw is having to replace some serious talent in 2019, with four of its top five lost to graduation.
Gone are 2017 state finalist Sam Yeager as well as Luke Delp, Tommy Meier and Jacob LaLonde. Together with returning senior Chase Byron, they posted a 308 at Rozella to win last year’s Warsaw Sectional before falling off the pace in the regional at Stonehenge with a 324 to tie for seventh.
Byron, the lone holdover, will be the obvious choice to lead the program after shooting a 79 in the sectional and a team-leading 78 in the regional. Byron, who will golf for Grace College next fall, was an Honorable Mention All-NLC selection as a junior.
“The second half of last year Chase played as well as anyone we had,” Haddad said. “He led us with a 73 at Brownsburg in a tournament we won. I’m excited for Chase in his senior year, and to see how he leads.”
Haddad will have the luxury of working with a new course with a lot of new faces, which he feels will only help also considering the weather hasn’t been very golf conducive as March flipped to April. Seven of the 12 on the Warsaw roster are freshmen, but it won’t all be trial by fire.
Juniors Zach LaLonde and Bryce Welk don’t have any varsity experience, but do have a bright golf background. LaLonde is the younger brother of the graduated Jacob and the youngest sibling in the LaLonde golf lineage, with sister Nichole LaLonde a former Tiger and St. Francis golf standout, and mom, Chris, Warsaw’s former girls golf coach. Two sophomores are Tucker Carlile and Mason Whitaker, Haddad noting Carlile has the immediate ability to crack the top five.
The freshman class consists of Ben Brander, Will Hall, Seth Hildebrand, Cal Hoskins, Jeremy Ryman, Lewis Turley and Jack Yeager. There’s a lot of pedigree within the ranks, with Hildebrand and Yeager brothers to Sam Yeager. Ryman is the son of area golf savant Matt Dick, and Hoskins comes in with perhaps the best player résumé of them all, named the IJGA Player of the Year as an eighth grader and one Haddad feels could immediately compete for the top spot.
“Cal is an incredible competitor,” stated Haddad. “He has experience with a golf academy and has a natural golf game. He should be one to watch right away for us.”
Warsaw is scheduled to open the season Tuesday on the road at Northridge in a trio with Mishawaka Marian.