by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys golf team had a season to remember in 2022.
For the first time in program history, the Eagles qualified for the Missouri State High School Boys Golf Championships as a team when it finished second in the Class 4 District 4 Tournament with a score of 348, just two stroked behind first-place Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
That wasn’t the only milestone either. Then junior Owen Herbert become the first Grain Valley golfer to earn all-state honors since Shane Collins did it 17 years earlier. Herbert took 11th place with a two-day score of 154.
The squad now hopes to repeat of exceed that same success in 2023, with three of its top five golfers returning from that state team. With some talented newcomers expected to enter the mix, the Eagles could once against make some noise.
“I think we have the talent to make it back to state and win the whole thing this year,” Herbert said. “We got some young guys who are good and some guys who have been in the program for a while. I am really looking forward to it.
Herbert is one of the key three returners for Grain Valley along with junior Charles Aldred and senior Jaiden Wilson.
Some other players will be counted upon to fill in the last two of the top five spots for Grain Valley. Some newcomers who could vie for those include Braxton Roach, Mason Morris, Eli Herbert, and Jack Hileman.
“We are going to have some competition for those last two spots,” Aldred said. “They are all working to make varsity. I could see the people changing in those last two spots a lot.”
That depth is something that should benefit the Eagles, according to head coach Andy Hebert.
“We have as good of a group preseason as we have ever had,” Andy Herbert said. “We have a lot of depth and we have some kids who have dedicated their offseason to getting better. That is what it takes to be good.
“For the first time, the number of kids who have bought in and pushed themselves is growing and that’s all you want. There are seven to eight kids who have a chance to be in that top five.”
Owen Herbert will lead that group as he aims to be all-state for the second consecutive year.
“Getting consistency back will be a big thing, especially with the irons,” Owen Herbert said. “I want to be all-state again this year. That is the goal.”
Aldred, who finished 68th at the state competition last season, is working better preparing himself mentally this season.
“In some of the smaller tournaments, I would do better,” Aldred said. “I am working on playing under pressure, so when I make it to district and state, then I can perform the way I want to.”
“At state, I played well the first day, then I thought I needed to play better the next day, so I put pressure on myself. I am just working on taking the pressure off myself.”
The Eagles will play in their first tournament of the season at the Truman Invitational at 9 a.m. Monday, March 20.
Senior Owen Herbert, left, and Charles Aldred are two Grain Valley boys golfers returning to play in 2023 after qualifying for state for the first time in program history last season. Photo credit: Michael Smith